Read an excerpt from this book in Oregon ArtsWatch.
“An engagingly written account of dancers who surmounted every obstacle, foreign and domestic, to help bring about the creation of American ballet. It is also a fascinating, detailed look at the way cultural institutions evolved through the dedication and artistry of star dancers.”—Lewis Segal, former dance critic, Los Angeles Times
“West writes with the same dedication and verve her subjects brought to their art. Todd Bolender, Janet Reed, and the Making of American Ballet is a deeply researched account of two luminaries in dance history, their many collaborators, and their work nurturing talent, audiences, and institutions across the country.”—Megan Pugh, author of America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk
In Todd Bolender, Janet Reed, and the Making of American Ballet, Martha Ullman West illustrates how American ballet developed over the course of the twentieth century from an aesthetic originating in the courts of Europe into a stylistically diverse expression of a democratic culture. West places at center stage two artists who were instrumental to this story: Todd Bolender and Janet Reed.
Lifelong friends, Bolender (1914–2006) and Reed (1916–2000) were part of a generation of dancers who navigated the Great Depression, World War II, and the vibrant cultural scene of postwar New York City. They danced in the works of choreographers Lew and Willam Christensen, Eugene Loring, Agnes de Mille, Catherine Littlefield, Ruthanna Boris, and others who West argues were just as responsible for the direction of American ballet as the legendary George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
The stories of Bolender, Reed, and their contemporaries also demonstrate that the flowering of American ballet was not simply a New York phenomenon. West includes little-known details about how Bolender and Reed laid the foundations for Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet in the 1970s and how Bolender transformed the Kansas City Ballet into a highly respected professional company soon after.
Passionate in their desire to dance and create dances, Bolender and Reed committed their lives to passing along their hard-won knowledge, training, and work. This book celebrates two unsung trailblazers who were pivotal to the establishment of ballet in America from one coast to the other.
Martha Ullman West is an arts writer specializing in dance and visual arts, based in Portland, Oregon. She has written for the New York Times, the Oregonian, Dance Magazine, Dance International, Ballet Review, Dance Chronicle, and the Chronicle Review.