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Holding On to the Air

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  430 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Suzanne Farrell, world-renowned ballerina, was one of George Balanchine's most celebrated muses and remains a legendary figure in the ballet world. This memoir, first published in 1990 and reissued with a new preface by the author, recounts Farrell's transformation from a young girl in Ohio dreaming of greatness to the realization of that dream on stages all over the world ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 25th 2002 by University Press of Florida (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 11, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I love this autobiography. It's good enough to be a work of fiction, right down to the unreliable narrator! Suzanne Farrell is sweet, beautiful, ethereal...a bit naive. And, unbeknownst to Suzanne, George Balanchine is one of the great villains in literature. I'd say she stole the character from The Portrait of a Lady...except he's real! It actually happened! Best of all, Suzanne triumphs in the end! Innocence triumphs!...unbeknownst to Suzanne.

Lovely, lovely Suzanne...
Dec 16, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
Suzanne Farrell's autobiography is absolutely beautiful, and it brought me to tears on several occasions. The way in which she describes dance is so poetic and is a demonstration of her passion and depth of understanding. I feel like I could forge a close friendship with someone like her—she is paradoxically realistic and measured and at the same time romantic and spiritual. I wish I could have seen her dance on stage rather than on video, but at least there is some legacy of her artistry. This ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Mary rated it liked it
This story was incredibly moving, and a fascinating (and detailed) glimpse into the world of ballet. Suzanne is obviously an incredible dancer and artist, and her story of her journey in developing her craft is resonant for anybody who has spent serious time in pursuit of the arts. (If you are not a serious artist of some kind, this book will probably bore you at some point. It does drag on!) Her description of her relationship with Balanchine, however, is startling and disturbing on many levels ...more
Jan 16, 2007 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Ballet Book Lovers
Suzanne Farrell comes off as rather odd in this book. She seems totally detached from reality, but then again, she didn't have to be, plucked to be part of George Balanchine's company at age 15 and immediately catapulted to "favored" status. Even the tone of the writing seems detached and sort of shadowy. If you are fascinated with the New York City Ballet this is a good book to add to your repertoire.
Apr 21, 2016 Samara rated it it was amazing
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Suzanne Farrell and while it was a brief encounter she was very gracious and approachable while also maintaining a sense of dignity. I read this biography as a teen because I have loved ballet my entire life and Ms. Farrell was my favorite prima ballerina growing up. I never had the pleasure of seeing her perform in person but would watch her recorded interviews and performances with tremendous interest. The way she danced was so lyrical and lovely that for ...more
Brooke Everett
May 29, 2016 Brooke Everett rated it liked it
If I ever had to write a paper on legendary choreography George Balanchine, this book would by my primary source for research, as it's the first-hand account of the creation of so many of his most famous works from one of his premiere muses and ballerinas.

It is more of a challenge to read about ballet; I'd rather be actually seeing the movements. Pieces of the story were a bit of a slog, especially when it came to the complex offstage relationship between Balanchine and Farrell. The most interes
Jun 27, 2016 Tally rated it really liked it
Holding on to the Air is a beautifully written memoir recounting the story of Suzanne Farrell, a former dancer at the New York City Ballet. From her childhood in Cincinnati to her retirement from ballet in 1989, Farrell's story is truly a remarkable one. The book describes at length her time with the New York City Ballet as well as her complex relationship with the legendary Balanchine.

The story has a nice flow to it, and it reads more easily than one would expect an autobiography to read – at l
Feb 25, 2014 Margot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ballet, i-own-it
Suzanne Farrell is a very elusive and mysterious woman.
I did not have the pleasure of seeing her dance on stage. I saw videos, but I was told she was incredible to see "live".
The world of ballet all know about Balanchine's love for Farrell. She talks about it of course, but she seems so naive, it is hard to believe.
Her thoughts about Balanchine various ballets are very interesting.
I loved that book.
Jun 02, 2009 Hillary rated it it was amazing
I knew the basic story of Suzanne Farrell and Balanchine, but after seeing "Diamonds" from his ballet Jewels, I became more curious. "Holding on the Air" is the enthralling autobiographical story about a girl from Cincinnati who becomes the great George Balanchine's singular muse at the New York City Ballet. Hearing it all from Suzanne's perspective, I got a much different feel for the story than just knowing the overview seen by the general public.

It was also fascinating to hear the story set a
Jan 31, 2015 Allison rated it it was amazing
The ballet world is infinitely fascinating to me but not every memoir offers both personal insight and historical knowledge. Reading Suzanne Farrell's book provided both. I knew little of George Balanchine prior to reading this but have since delved into finding video of past ballets as well as digging up information. Excellent.
Aug 31, 2012 Coralie rated it really liked it
This was another memoir from a ballerina of George Balanchine's New York City Ballet. I'm not really into ballet, but these books were the right price at the Listen Center and I'm always up for learning about something new. Suzanne Farrell is said to be the premier ballerina of the 20th century. Like Gelsey Kirkland, Farrell had a wierd relationship with Balanchine. Unlike Kirkland, Farrell wasn't quite as deeply involved with him as Kirkland. Farrell was a very religious Catholic, and I think t ...more
Jun 21, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it
I read this because my 12yo daughter is a dancer, and I wanted to see if it was appropriate for her to read. It's not, mainly because of Farrell's fraught relationship as a teen with Balanchine. Nothing untoward happens, but the confusion of a 19yo who is in love with a married 60-something is a bit much.

Otherwise it's an interesting book. There's lots of detail about specific ballets, and it leaves you in awe of Balanchine (but that's a given, no?) The book is curiously quiet about Farrell's f
Dec 16, 2010 Angela rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ballet lovers
This book is essentially about Balanchine and her relationship with him and the process of ballet--which is great. There is no real personal story here. Despite all the physical closeness of her family living in a small NYC apartment--they are only marginally mentioned. I also think it was interesting that Balanchine and other dancers close to her sent her letters staying "stay thin" but she denies at the end of the book that the company had anything to do with some dancers becoming anorexic. Si ...more
Liesl Gibson
Aug 07, 2015 Liesl Gibson rated it really liked it
This book started to answer a lot of the questions I've had about the current controversy about City Ballet. And it helped me to see Ms. Farrell's dancing in a different light.
Feb 23, 2016 Erocchio rated it it was amazing
A wonderful view into the world of a ballerina
Nov 09, 2011 Kat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wanna-be-Ballet Dancers
Shelves: life-stories
I read this book before attending Ms Farrell's summer program at the Kennedy Centre. Ballet is a hard, dark, and incredibly demanding carreer, but Farrell highlights some of the truly beautiful elements that lead us to dance. She is a beautiful person and this book is an accurate reflection of her spirit. Ballet can eat your soul but Farrell shows how it is possible to be a great dancer and remain whole.
T. Natalia
Jan 10, 2014 T. Natalia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dancers; autobio enthusiasts
Suzanne Farrell is probably my favorite American ballerina. Dancers like her barely exist anymore and her torturous partnership with George Balanchine is pretty revealing.
Sep 10, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
I love reading biographys/autobiographys and this one didn't dissapoint. Her relationship with her boss/trainer is a little wierd at times, but this book gave a nice insight for me to ballet and sacrficing things to get what you want in the end. Suzanne was an amazing dancer and it was fun to read about such an amazing dancer living in a world that I had no idea existed.
Elesa Labanz
Jan 18, 2008 Elesa Labanz rated it it was amazing
There is no co-author listed here which surprises me. Suzanne Farrell is an incredible dancer and I was surprised to find that she's a very effective writer as well in this autobiography. You don't need to know anything about ballet to appreciate this book as she effectively paints the picture of her immersion in the world of George Balanchine.
I took ballet for 4 years in middle and high school and during that time my mom's boyfriend, Daniel, very nicely bought me this book. Ballet's great in many ways, but pointe is not one of them, so unless you're interested in reading about all the crazy things that people do to their bodies in order to be ballet dancers, I wouldn't read this book.
Rachel Swords
Jul 28, 2013 Rachel Swords rated it really liked it
Shelves: dance-ballet
Before I read this book, I had never known much about Suzanne Farrell besides the fact that she was a Balanchine ballerina, and an amazing dancer as a whole. It's hard to put into words what makes this book so good, but if you love ballet or a good biography, you must read Ms. Farrell's "Holding On to the Air." It's simply amazing.
Feb 09, 2009 Shelly rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for any ballerina in training and ballerinas in general. Wonderful autobiography. I usually don't care for them, but this is written so well.
Suzanne Farrell is extraordinary. Her life was amazing. The way she describes dance, it is obvious it is a major part of her life.
Oct 12, 2010 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
The book is sometimes painfully honest, and Farrell made some personal choices that probably make more sense to other dancers than they did to me, but this fascinating account sheds welcome light on the woman who is probably still America's best-known ballerina (and for good reason).
Jun 21, 2007 Diane rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Autobiography and/or Dance Lovers
What an extraordinary life Suzanne Farrel lead! A glimpse into one of the great muses of dance history with an emphasis on exposing the normalcy of her life.
Oct 31, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: ballet, bio-memoir
Oh Suzanne, what can I say except truth is stranger than fiction and you be crazy. Probably the best ballet memoir I've read.
Aug 09, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
I have been on a ballet dancer kick lately. So interesting to read about what it takes to be a world class dancer.
Tracie Trog
The most heart wrenching and emotional autobiography I've ever read.
Constance Lucier
Dec 06, 2012 Constance Lucier rated it really liked it
These delicate graceful ballerinas really are hare core athletes.
Apr 07, 2010 Bill rated it liked it
Intimate family anecdotes about my neighbor and friend
Molly W
Jul 15, 2012 Molly W rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. I absolutely loved every page.
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“I loved the stage not because it provided an escape from myself or my humdrum life but because when the curtain went up I could be whoever I wanted to be, and that was true freedom - to be myself.” 2 likes
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