George Balanchine’s Don Quixote, as originally produced in 1965 by the New York City Ballet, saw the sixty-one-year-old choreographer in the title role, with the part of Dulcinea danced by a nineteen-year-old soloist named Suzanne Farrell, who at the time had only been two years with the company. The three-act ballet, complete with story-line and dance divertissements to a score by Nicolas Nabokov, was seen as quite a departure for the master of complex, plotless works to music by Stravinsky. It was generally speculated that the ballet was in itself a quixotic venture, a statement of the hopeless adoration the aging Balanchine felt for his young ballerina.

Farrell’s autobiography, Holding on to the Air, written with Toni Bentley (a dancer and the author of Winter Season, an account of life backstage at the New York City Ballet in 1980), is...


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