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I, Maya Plisetskaya [Hardcover]

Maya Plisetskaya
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Book Description

10 Oct 2001
Maya Plisetskaya, one of the world's foremost dancers, rose to become a prima ballerina of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet after an early life filled with tragedy and loss. In this spirited memoir, Plisetskaya reflects on her personal and professional odyssey, presenting a unique view of the life of a Soviet artist during the troubled period from the late 1930s to the 1990s. Plisetskaya recounts the execution of her father in the Great Terror and her mother's exile to the Gulag. She describes her admission to the Bolshoi in 1943, the roles she performed there, and the endless petty harassments she endured, from both envious colleagues and Party officials. Refused permission for six years to tour with the company, Plisetskaya eventually performed all over the world, working with such noted choreographers as Roland Petit and Maurice Bejart. She recounts the tumultuous events she lived through and the fascinating people she met - among them the legendary ballet teacher Agrippina Vaganova, George Balanchine, Frank Sinatra, Rudolf Nureyev, and Dmitri Shostakovich. And she provides fascinating details about testy cocktail-party encounters with Khrushchev, tours abroad when her meagre daily allowance brought her close to starvation, and KGB plots to capitalise on her friendship with Robert Kennedy. Gifted, courageous, and brutally honest, Plisetskakya brilliantly illuminates the world of Soviet ballet during an era that encompasses both repression and cultural detente.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (10 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300088574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300088571
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.5 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,262,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Plisetskaya...has a wonderful diarist's eye for the vicious, whimsical stupidity on which state terror was based' -- Ismene Brown, Daily Telegraph, 15 December 2001

About the Author

Still prima ballerina assoluta with the Bolshoi Ballet, Maya Plisetskaya also travels around the world performing and lecturing. At the Bolshoi's gala celebrating her 75th birthday, President Vladimir Putin presented her with Russia's highest civilian honour, the medal for service to the Russian state, second degree. Tim Scholl is professor of Russian language and literature at Oberlin College. Antonina W. Bouis is the prize-winning translator of more than fifty books, including fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs by such figures as Andrei Sakharov, Elena Bonner, and Dmitri Shostakovich.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ulla
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Being old enough and fortunate enough to have seen this great dancer on the stage in some of her greatest roles, I was delighted to get hold of this book I, Maya Plisetskaya(I bought it in hardback and paperback!)It is utterly fascinating, not only the insight into this great woman's artistic life(she is rightly claimed as one of the greatest ballerinas ever) but also the private person and the struggles she had to overcome under the Soviet Regime to pursue her career, her sheer existence. Her courage, iron willpower and ,of course, a God given talent,made her the great artist she is. The book ,of course,is full of complicated Russian names (for some readers!) and has no index. Just read it cover to cover. Its well worth it and very inspiring!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 13 Mar 2012
By Laura
Maya is my favourite ballerina ever, and i was so glad i enjoyed her book as much as i do her dancing! Surprisingly well written, moving in parts, and covers everything you'd want to know about her dancing & big roles, her life (particularly the impact the politics of Russia at the height of her fame. I'm so glad i found this, i know i'll be re-reading it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ballet Book to Keep! 16 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A fully rounded book, covering the nitty gritty of training and performing and the frustration of Politics impinging on Art. Very readable.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story by a great ballerina 18 July 2002
By Joan Benny - Published on Amazon.com
Written with honesty, in a personal and intimate way, this is the fascinating yet horrifying story of life for the foremost ballerina in Russia under Stalinist, and after his death, equally cruel communist rule. While she was being used to show off the brilliance of Russian ballet, dancing for visiting foreign dignitaries, she was followed, spied on, given little money, and for fear of defection, not allowed to leave the country with the rest of the Bolshoi company.
Although by then she was in her forties, I was lucky enough to have seen her dance here in the USA and in Paris. Her 'Odette/Odile' and her 'Dying Swan' were, I think, the best in the history of dance. Her book is a page-turner. I couldn't put it down.
I also highly recommend the videotape, "Plisetskaya Dances". Wait til you see her leaps where her foot touches the back of her head!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!! 27 July 2002
By Daniel G. Madigan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Read this and know what a great artist is all about. She is the ballerina par excllence, and Makarova would agree.
Her dying swan was so overwhelingly great in person, which I saw three times, that audiences yelled for thirty minutes for her to just bow to them again and again. She repeated the dying swan or part of it at one performance I attended and there was pandemoinium. Her arms are perfect wings, waving naturally in the winds that she made you belive in. She metamorphosed herself into a swan before our eyes. Indeed, her other ballet scenes were of the smae magnitude. Her examples from Giselle, Manon Lescaut etc. made huge fans out of haters of ballet.
When we went back stage to get autographs there were over a thousand people waiiting to see her, touch, applaud her once more.
To read her book is to know the horrors of the Soviet system of old, with its repression of people like her. We had only small samples of her art, and now her great Autobiography...Plisetskaya will live forever in the records of ballet, even Nureyev and Barishnikov in thier spheres can only touch her greatness..Makarova is the closet , very much so, but Madame Plisetskaya is the ballet Diva of the universe, and this book will help you see why.
There are films of her dancing that mezmerize, even through the weirdness of TV imagery and snow.
Buy this book and begin to know about the art of ballet by its supreme practioner.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A common man's point of view. 23 Nov 2009
By Richard Rawls - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
You will be able to relate to the dancer more closely, I believe, when you know more about his/her life from the beginning. In this case, Maya tells us in her own words what her life was like from her beginning in 1925, and she ends it more or less abruptly, during her Jubilee Celebration. Remember when the Russian White House was attact and set on fire by cannon fire from Russian tanks? There was a coup attempt taking place in the government offices. Every news channel in the US of A showed it on TV, in 1993. While that was happening, right across the street almost, Maya was preparing for her celebration of 50 years on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater. At the age of 68, Maya plisetskaya would be on stage, dancing at her own Jubilee Celebration. You can see what she would have looked like if you get a copy of "Esential Ballet" in which she dances "The Dying Swan" at the age of 68. So, that means her debut was October 1943, while WWII was still raging. A lot of history takes place between those dates, and her recording of it is very interesting. She maintained a journal of her activities from early on, so in effect she has her own written account of nearly everything that happened to her. She does not have to rely on memory alone. Naturally, she reminisces outside of her notes many times, and sometimes the chronology is hard to understand. It is not the easiest book to follow because her memory wonders, so I found myself having to reread many passages to follow her story.

This is not just a history of Maya Plisetskaya, but a history of the Soviet Union and the horrible things that happened to her family and herself from 1925 to 1993. Thank God she outlived the Soviets. I think she is still alive, and the last I heard she was living (and teaching) in Spain. It is obvious she loved Spain.

Get this book, read it, learn from it what it takes to become a Prima Ballerina Assoluta in spite of a repressive Soviet government that killed her father and imprisoned her mother, but also the good, kindhearted, salt of the earth people who lived in the Russia she never betrayed. Why? Because more than anything, she loved Rodion Shchedrin and the stage of the Bolshoi Theater.....Richard.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read 31 Oct 2011
By Wade Howard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I stumbled on I, Maya Plisetskaya by accident, through Amazon.com, and immediately snatched it up because I have always wanted to read an autobiography of this fascinating, enigmatic, and exceptionally talented ballerina of The Bolshoi Ballet.

I, Maya Plisetskaya was a joy to read. The book goes into detail about how she was hounded by the KGB; her father murdered by Stalin's goons; her mother imprisoned; and how the [then] Politburo, under Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Kruschev, forbade her to travel abroad with The Bolshoi Ballet, for fear she would defect.

The book's pages are liberally sprinkled with poor grammar, repeated words, and meandering text. However, to me, reading this book was like sitting at a table with Ms. Plisetskaya, and over good food and drink, listening to her tell her life story from her heart and soul.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great if meandering tale that needed better electronic support 12 Sep 2011
By Annag Chandler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Maya Plisetskaya was a true artistic genius and tells a mesmerizing story of life, artistic and political, in the Soviet Union of Lenin, Stalin, and successors. I agree with the other reviewers who comment that it is hard to keep the strand of people, given her [classically Russian] way of referring to people by so many different names and nicknames -- full three-part names, initials, first name and patronymic, etc. She needed a good editor to take her in hand on those issues. It's one thing for an artist to bypass the ghost writer; to skimp on the editor is a different matter. But she tells a story! It's always hard to tell in a translated work, of course, but she seems to have a distinct voice that shines through to tell her story in its tragedy and triumph.

However -- and it's a big however -- the Kindle edition is a poor substitute for a well-edited book. Not having the physical pages for comparison [at these prices I thought twice about buying the book at all...] it's not a slam-dunk that the errors, typos, missing spaces after periods, and wandering hyphens are errors arising from a sloppy transition from print to e-book, but it seems unlikely that a publisher would have allowed those errors in a $39.00 book. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of slipshod treatment of any book, much less a book that costs as much as this Kindle edition costs. Can we have some Quality Control, please? Is there a proofreader in the house?
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