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Holding On to the Air

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  349 ratings  ·  27 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

(showing 1-30 of 1,018)
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Sarah
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...
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*sigh*
...more
Heather
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
Elizabeth
Jan 16, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
Tally
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
...more
Margot
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.
Hillary
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
...more
Allison
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.
Coralie
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
Julia
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
...more
Angela
Dec 16, 2010 Angela rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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.
Kat
Nov 09, 2011 Kat rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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 5 of 5 stars
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.
Sarah
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
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.
Cassidy
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
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.
Shelly
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.
Patrick
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).
Diane
Jun 21, 2007 Diane rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Sarah
Oh Suzanne, what can I say except truth is stranger than fiction and you be crazy. Probably the best ballet memoir I've read.
Judy
I have been on a ballet dancer kick lately. So interesting to read about what it takes to be a world class dancer.
Constance Lucier
These delicate graceful ballerinas really are hare core athletes.
Bill
Intimate family anecdotes about my neighbor and friend
Molly W
Wonderful book. I absolutely loved every page.
Aimee
senior project. why can't i find bios from ABT?
Lily
For our month on ballerinas.
Janet Schick
Janet Schick marked it as to-read
Aug 28, 2015
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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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