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on 31 May 2008
Once I started this I couldn't put it down; I loved it. I bought it (obviously) to find out more about Lydia and her life in the world of ballet. I certainly did that and what a wonderful character she turned out to be (though in some ways just as enigmatic at the end of the book as at the beginning). Her early life especially involves the author in quite a lot of guesswork and there are some teasing mysteries.

But I got so much more besides: insights into the Bloomsbury set and it educated me (very readably indeed) as to just how towering a fugure Maynard Keynes was. If anyone had told me I'd be enthralled by an economist I'd have laughed. A really good read - buy the paperback - it's just out.
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on 9 June 2009
Bringing back a lost world Judith Mackerell's gripping book gives a marvellous insight into the world of Russian ballet, which years ago I was able to picture vividly with long chats with Vera Savina, and the unlikely connection with the Bloomsbury set who briefly in 1916 settled in our village of Wissett in a farmhouse now owned by my daughter and husband but which at that time was rented: I understand Maynard Keynes paid half the rent.
Having distant and tenuous connections with both worlds I found the pace and grip of this book superb!
Leslie J. Brinton
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on 15 October 2012
Lydia Lopokova. Unpredictable and impulsive, vivacious and charming she is one of the greatest Imperial Russian dancers ever known. This is the story of how a top Ballerina in the Diaghilev Company achieved international fame, starting from the very beginning of her life at the start of a career.
Lydia unexpectedly married British economist and Bloomsbury member John Maynard Keynes, thus linking Ballet with the Bloomsbury group including war and revolution. Encounters with Picasso and Virginia Woolf were a part of this dancer's extraordinary life and her leap to the top. This tale is about a captivating, fascinating woman who was not just eccentric but devoted to her husband and her career. This is an honest, insightful and fascinating account about a remarkable individual who will never be forgotten, for both her talent in the world of dance and her singular life that was full of color and spark. Judith Mackrell brings a much loved and cherished character from out of the wings into centre-stage, with such enthralling vigor that you loose yourself within her story whilst unable to put the book down. Lopokova is an important individual, who should be remembered and revered, and valued for the incredible person that she was. This masterpiece is a delightful biography of truth, well-researched detail and of such a high caliber that you can only commend it for being confidently told. Lopokova's life was encompassed by the beauty of ballet, the powerful Russian revolution and the Bloomsbury group who all impacted upon her direction in the paths that she chose to take. Skillfully and intricately woven this book combines both art and experiences to produce something so absorbing, that you are unable to turn your eyes from as you take the journey from the very beginning. This is a person who deserves to be under the spotlight once more and as a fan of hers I cannot thank the author enough for doing this. She greatly impacted upon the world of Classical Ballet, being an icon and an inspiration for many.
This fantastic book is adorned with photographs of Lydia, those distinctive people who had great impact in her life (such as her husband Maynard, Slavinsky and Woizikovsky and the Ballet Russes) and those photographs of her performing in various ballets and productions. It gives the reader a look at the Russian Ballet from its foundations and Diaghilev's (1872-1929) company that revolutionised early 20th-century arts and which continues to influence cultural activity today. Fans of dance and of history will love this biography, that should be treasured for years to come.
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on 14 June 2010
I saw this book in the library and was attracted to the cover and title as I have always been interested ballet and the Bloomsbury set. What a great book! I can hardly put it down and carry it with me despite its heaviness being a hardback edition. I had never heard of this lady before so it was a great treat to find out about her. What I did find enlightening and disappointing was the insights into the Bloomsbury set members especially Virginia and Vanessa and how nasty they could be. I had always admired them but from reading this book I feel that they were probably very arrogant and hypocritical in many ways. Also very class conscious and patronising towards those they considered 'outsiders'. Their views on anti-marriage does seem peculiar since both the sisters were married. However I digress and have to say again what a wonderful book and whilst Lydia was not an angel she does kind of make you like her. Although I think she was probably quite irritating as well! I went to St Petersburg last year and fell in love with Russia despite its downside even today. Reading about their apartment on Nevsky Prospekt brought back lovely memories for me and I hope to to again one day. I strongly recommend this book.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 12 September 2015
Judith Mackrell's Bloomsbury Ballerina is Lydia Lopokova, a Russian prima ballerina, who was born in St Petersburg in 1891, and began her training at the Imperial School of Ballet, but later went to Paris with Sergei Diaghilev when he formed the revolutionary Ballets Russes. After Paris came America, where Lydia unwittingly married a bigamist, Randolfo Barocchi; later she had an affair with Igor Stravinsky; and when she came to London, she met the economist and one of the core members of the Bloomsbury Group, Maynard Keynes. Although not initially particularly enamoured with Lydia and predominantly homosexual, Maynard later became absolutely enchanted by her exoticness and her idiosyncratic command of the English language, and soon the pair had embarked on an intimate relationship.

However, although Lydia had danced in major roles with Nijinsky and Massine and had become hugely popular with the London balletomanes, who were taken with her exuberance and vivacity, Maynard's Bloomsbury friends (which included: Lytton Strachey, Clive Bell, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf) were not impressed, finding her noisy, gauche and unintellectual, and did not hesitate to make her feel an unwelcome interloper. And it was not just being snubbed by Bloomsbury that caused Lydia problems, there was Maynard's lover, the Cambridge graduate, Sebastian Sprott, with his long limbs and floppy brown hair, with whom she also had to contend. Faced with such opposition, many women would have backed away, especially as Maynard had been drawn almost exclusively to other men for practically the whole of his adult life, but Lydia already familiar with bisexual men, such as Nijinsky and Massine, used her "erotic ingenuity and emotional determination to break that pattern."

In 1925, after Lydia had divorced Barocchi, she and Maynard married, and in addition to their London home, they also happily spent time in East Sussex where, despite Bloomsbury's disapproval, Maynard took the lease on Tilton, a farmhouse, near to Vanessa Bell's and Duncan Grant's beautifully decorated country home, Charleston. At Tilton, they walked on the South Downs up to Firle Beacon, played tennis on their tennis court (Lydia even took lessons with a Mr Perry - who may have been the legendary Fred) and entertained guests such as: George 'Dadie' Rylands, the Fabians Beatrice and Sidney Webb, dancers and choreographers Ninette de Valois and Frederick Ashton, and the composer Constant Lambert.

Weaving together interesting information about ballet and about life in Bloomsbury and beyond, author and dance critic, Judith Mackrell, has written a well-researched, scholarly and sympathetic account of the now generally little-known, yet original and imaginative ballerina Lydia Lopokova. Having an interest in both the ballet and in the Bloomsbury Group, I found Ms Mackrell's attractively presented biography an informative and entertaining read and, as such, is one I find easy to recommend.

5 Stars.
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on 11 August 2009
I knew that Keynes had married a Russian ballerina, but had no idea how colourful and distinguished the lady was. Judith Mackrell's entertaining and illuminating account of a life which included a surprising but triumphant marriage is richly entertaining, and covers many of the 20th. century's most important events as well as the tortuous development of the many ballet companies. I defy anyone not to end up liking Lydia.
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on 13 May 2014
I meant to read this when it first came out 5 or 6 years ago and am glad to have finally caught up with it. A thoughtful and sympathetic account of the life of Lydia Lopokova both as a professional dancer and an outsider intruding on the Bloomsbury set, that Judith Mackrell is eminently qualified to write. As a dancer herself she gets inside the body as well as the mind of her subject, looking at the technical side of Lopokova's style and the impact of age as she took root in England.
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on 5 July 2010
Mackrell is well-known as a dance reviewer in the UK, but here she wears her learning very lightly. Instead, she gives us a sparkling and intimate portrait of an extraordinary woman who lived through extraordinary times. Ballet scholars and historians will not be disappointed, the standard of research is examplary, but it's Mackrell's human touch - her sympathetic account of the bullying and snobbishness Lydia endured at the hands of the self-regarding Bloomsbury set, for example - which lifts this exceptional biography into a class of its own.
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on 14 July 2015
Although this book is quite long, and occasionally felt it, I was sorry to reach the inevitable end of such an unusual life. I read the book because of the connection to the Bloomsbury group and Maynard Keynes, but became fascinated by Lydia herself. She did not have an easy passage through life, and possibly did not always make the best decisions, but she eventually achieved success in both her personal life and career. I am now keen to read the new Maynard Keynes biography.
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on 23 February 2014
I do not know what can I say, I gave it away so I can't say anything about the book
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