Artists in Exile: How Refugees from Twentieth-Century War by Joseph Horowitz PDF

By Joseph Horowitz

Many years of battle and revolution in Europe compelled an "intellectual migration" over the past century, moving hundreds of thousands of artists and thinkers to the us. for lots of of Europe's most popular acting artists, the USA proved to be a vacation spot either unusual and opportune. that includes the tales of George Balanchine, Kurt Weill, Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and so on, Artists in Exile explores the effect that those recognized rookies had on American tradition, and that the United States had on them.

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No American could have achieved such an “American” renewal of classical ballet. That the City Ballet has deteriorated since Balanchine’s death in 1983 thins his legacy, but not his achievement. At the turn of the twenty-fi rst century, the United States is no longer virgin terrain for dance. Balanchine’s progeny have established or directed important ballet companies of their own in Chicago, Harlem, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Seattle, as well as abroad. Balanchine’s example has contributed crucially to validating dance as a contemporary American art form nourished by tradition and frequently vitalized—as symphony and opera are not—by important new work.

Nor is Balanchine here topping a Russian confection with exotic local colors after the fashion of Glinka’s Spain or RimskyKorsakov’s Italy. Rather, Western Symphony knowingly combines Americana and ballet, New World and Old; an ironic wink seals its sophistication and charm. In Who Cares? (1970), it is the absence of irony that tells us that, for Balanchine, George Gershwin is the real thing. Another component of the City Ballet repertoire—a repertoire blithely dispensing with the European canon—experimentally ex- HOW TO BECOME AN AMERICAN 39 plored iconic twentieth-century intensities of alienation and depersonalization.

The second movement is a gentle waltz. The third (not part of 34 ARTISTS IN EXILE the original ballet) is a vigorous Russian dance that high-kicking Moiseyev Cossacks might have appropriated, here deracinated as an exhilarating catalyst for freed bodies and spirits. The Elegy, which Tchaikovsky places third, thus becomes the finale: a fruition of adult feeling, intimating pain and loss. Appraising this encapsulation of release and self-discovery, the peerless American dance critic Edwin Denby wrote that Balanchine had to fi nd a way for Americans to look grand and noble, yet not be embarrassed about it.

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