Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

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Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

by Amanda Vaill

Broadway Books | November 21, 2006 | Hardcover

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From the author of the acclaimed Everybody Was So Young, the definitive and major biography of the great choreographer and Broadway legend Jerome Robbins

To some, Jerome Robbins was a demanding perfectionist, a driven taskmaster, a theatrical visionary; to others, he was a loyal friend, a supportive mentor, a generous and entertaining companion and colleague. Born Jerome Rabinowitz in New York City in 1918, Jerome Robbins repudiated his Jewish roots along with his name only to reclaim them with his triumphant staging of Fiddler on the Roof. A self-proclaimed homosexual, he had romances or relationships with both men and women, some famous-like Montgomery Clift and Natalie Wood-some less so. A resolutely unpolitical man, he was forced to testify before Congress at the height of anti-Communist hysteria. A consummate entertainer, he could be paralyzed by shyness; nearly infallible professionally, he was conflicted, vulnerable, and torn by self-doubt. Guarded and adamantly private, he was an inveterate and painfully honest journal writer who confided his innermost thoughts and aspirations to a remarkable series of diaries and memoirs. With ballets like Dances at a Gathering, Afternoon of a Faun, and The Concert, he humanized neoclassical dance; with musicals like On the Town, Gypsy, and West Side Story, he changed the face of theater in America.
In the pages of this definitive biography, Amanda Vaill takes full measure of the complicated, contradictory genius who was Jerome Robbins. She re-creates his childhood as the only son of Russian Jewish immigrants; his apprenticeship as a dancer and Broadway chorus gypsy; his explosion into prominence at the age of twenty-five with the ballet Fancy Free and its Broadway incarnation, On the Town; and his years of creative dominance in both theater and dance. She brings to life his colleagues and friends-from Leonard Bernstein and George Balanchine to Robert Wilson and Robert Graves-and his loves and lovers. And she tells the full story behind some of Robbins's most difficult episodes, such as his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and his firing from the film version of West Side Story.
Drawing on thousands of pages of documents from Robbins's personal and professional papers, to which she was granted unfettered access, as well as on other archives and hundreds of interviews, Somewhere is a riveting narrative of a life lived onstage, offstage, and backstage. It is also an accomplished work of criticism and social history that chronicles one man's phenomenal career and places it squarely in the cultural ferment of a time when New York City was truly "a helluva town."

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 688 pages, 9.54 × 6.53 × 1.8 in

Published: November 21, 2006

Publisher: Broadway Books

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0767904206

ISBN - 13: 9780767904209

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– More About This Product –

Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins

by Amanda Vaill

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 688 pages, 9.54 × 6.53 × 1.8 in

Published: November 21, 2006

Publisher: Broadway Books

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0767904206

ISBN - 13: 9780767904209

Read from the Book

Prologue In the end, he came home. Four days earlier, on July 25, 1998, he had suffered a catastrophic stroke and was rushed to New York—Presbyterian Hospital, where a CAT scan revealed that the entire right hemisphere of his brain had been flooded with massive amounts of blood. His doctors had wanted to put him in intensive care, but it was clear they could do nothing more for him there. So the terms of his living will had been invoked and he had been brought back to the house he had lived in for thirty years and to the circle of family, friends, and lovers who had gathered to say good-bye. Now he lay in his third-floor bedroom, the once quicksilver body still, the sharp eyes unseeing, the voice–which could warm you or raise blisters on your skin–silent. His breathing was ragged: sometimes he seemed not to be breathing at all, and then suddenly he would take deep, gasping breaths, as if he were desperately trying to fill his lungs with oxygen. “Is he afraid?” his sister had asked when she arrived at the house from her home in Vermont; when she was reassured that no, he wasn’t, she said, “I am.” Downstairs, in the office that was the center of a million–dollar–per–year theatrical business, the telephones rang with concerned calls from associates, colleagues, friends, but upstairs it was quiet except for the rounded cadences of Bach’s French Suites on the bedroom CD player. He always liked to have music pl
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From the Publisher

From the author of the acclaimed Everybody Was So Young, the definitive and major biography of the great choreographer and Broadway legend Jerome Robbins

To some, Jerome Robbins was a demanding perfectionist, a driven taskmaster, a theatrical visionary; to others, he was a loyal friend, a supportive mentor, a generous and entertaining companion and colleague. Born Jerome Rabinowitz in New York City in 1918, Jerome Robbins repudiated his Jewish roots along with his name only to reclaim them with his triumphant staging of Fiddler on the Roof. A self-proclaimed homosexual, he had romances or relationships with both men and women, some famous-like Montgomery Clift and Natalie Wood-some less so. A resolutely unpolitical man, he was forced to testify before Congress at the height of anti-Communist hysteria. A consummate entertainer, he could be paralyzed by shyness; nearly infallible professionally, he was conflicted, vulnerable, and torn by self-doubt. Guarded and adamantly private, he was an inveterate and painfully honest journal writer who confided his innermost thoughts and aspirations to a remarkable series of diaries and memoirs. With ballets like Dances at a Gathering, Afternoon of a Faun, and The Concert, he humanized neoclassical dance; with musicals like On the Town, Gypsy, and West Side Story, he changed the face of theater in America.
In the pages of this definitive biography, Amanda Vaill takes full measure of the complicated, contradictory genius who was Jerome Robbins. She re-creates his childhood as the only son of Russian Jewish immigrants; his apprenticeship as a dancer and Broadway chorus gypsy; his explosion into prominence at the age of twenty-five with the ballet Fancy Free and its Broadway incarnation, On the Town; and his years of creative dominance in both theater and dance. She brings to life his colleagues and friends-from Leonard Bernstein and George Balanchine to Robert Wilson and Robert Graves-and his loves and lovers. And she tells the full story behind some of Robbins's most difficult episodes, such as his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and his firing from the film version of West Side Story.
Drawing on thousands of pages of documents from Robbins's personal and professional papers, to which she was granted unfettered access, as well as on other archives and hundreds of interviews, Somewhere is a riveting narrative of a life lived onstage, offstage, and backstage. It is also an accomplished work of criticism and social history that chronicles one man's phenomenal career and places it squarely in the cultural ferment of a time when New York City was truly "a helluva town."

From the Jacket

Jerome Robbins (born Jerome Rabinowitz in 1918) was one of the most important figures in American dance and musical theater in the twentieth century. He was the Co-Artistic Director with George Balanchine of the fledgling New York City Ballet in 1948, bringing Broadway vernacular energy to complement Balanchine''s austere classicism and choreographing such classic ballets as "Facsimile, "Dance at a Gathering, and "Afternoon of a Faun. His ballet to a score by Leonard Bernstein, "Fancy Free, electrified the dance world and would transmogrify into the immortal musical "On the Town. On Broadway, he choreographed "The King and I, "The Pajama Game, "Bells Are Ringing, and "Peter Pan, and choreographed and directed "West Side Story--probably his most enduring achievement. In his private life he was an ambivalent, semi-closeted homosexual and his cooperation with the McCarthy committee during the witch-hunts of the 1950s estranged him from many of his closest friends. He was an artistic giant whose life embodied many of the tensions and contradictions of the American century. He exemplified, in his life no less than his work, the flowering of American in the mid-twentieth century -in particular the emergence of New York as the capital of world culture.
"Somewhere by Amanda Vaill is the first and only book with access to the Robbins papers, a voluminous collection of letters, diaries, notebooks, memos, and production notes that form an unrivaled archive of a singular man''s life and a singular moment in our cultural history. Supremely accomplished and entertaining, it not only chronicles Robbins''s phenomenal career and plumbs his complex private life but will place him squarely in thecultural ferment of his time and his native city. It explains the tangle of contradictions that made him such an infuriating, fascinating, oddly vulnerable human being and such a protean creative figure, and offers a densely populated narrative that will draw readers in and along. "Somewhere is a major biography of a true entertainment legend.

About the Author

AMANDA VAILL is the author of Everybody Was So Young, the bestselling biography of Lost Generation icons Gerald and Sara Murphy, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. A publisher and editor for more than twenty years, she has written on arts and culture for New York, Esquire, Ballet Review, Architectural Digest, Town & Country, and other publications. She lives in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Somewhere "Jerome Robbins is the great subject of American theatrical biography—self-contradictory, self-hating, arrogant and terrified and gifted almost beyond compare—and Amanda Vaill has done him justice. I can''t think of a better full-length portrait of an American choreographer or director, and I can''t imagine a better book about Robbins ever being written." —Terry Teachout, drama critic, The Wall Street Journal "Amanda Vaill has written an epic biography-remarkable in scope and meticulous in detail. She explores the energizing worlds of Broadway, the ballet and Hollywood from the 1940s through 2OOO and she paints a vivid picture of the mercurial Jerome Robbins, master choreographer and director of such legendary musicals as West Side Story and Fiddler On the Roof . Vaill is especially insightful about Robbins''s frenetic private life—he loved both men and women with equal passion; how he juggled his dozens of relationships while creating masterpiece after masterpiece in theatre and ballet is just part of this amazing story." —Patricia Bosworth, author of Montgomery Clift and Diane Arbus: A Biography . "Exactly ten degrees north of terrific'' was the verdict on Jerome Robbins''s first ballet, and the description holds as well for this masterful, culturally astute biography. Amanda Vaill brings Robbins and the dance equally and irresistibly to life on the page. A sheer delight." —Stacy Schiff,
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