Eva Maze: With Ballet in My Soul

A life spanning close to 100 years is noteworthy, if only because of its longevity. The rich life of a woman committed to a professional vision ahead of its time, filled with glamour, excitement, and adventure, is truly remarkable. Narrated in her own words, this is the story of such a woman, Eva Maze, who, from the time she left Romania as a teenager in 1939, dreamed of being a ballet dancer, and through a series a circumstances, became instead one of the most successful theatrical impresarios in Europe – with a career spanning more than 40 years.

Now in her nineties, Maze looks back at the path and passion that led her from Bucharest to the United States as an immigrant, and then, as a married woman, back again to Europe and Asia, where she found her professional calling.

Set against key historical events of the 20th century, including the building of the Berlin Wall, the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, as well as the rise and fall of Pan American Airlines, Maze’s fascinating past is brought to life through a combination of serious commentary and amusing anecdotes about the risks and rewards of the business side of theater and dance, some of the personalities who were part of those worlds from the 1940s to the 1990s, her own motivation for being an impresario, and her personal life. Her narration is supported by more than 250 captivating historical and modern images going back to her birth in 1922.

Representing artists and companies abroad from a vast array of talent in the performing arts of the time – including The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, The Living Theatre, and The Swingle Singers – this unique woman became a prolific producer of more than 100 different types of theatrical programs from the world of dance, music, mime, cabaret, and drama.

When the publisher contacted me about Eva Maze’s memoir, the stunning woman on the cover caught my attention immediately. After reading the captivating summary, I couldn’t say no to the review request. I was expecting a regular black and white print copy, but when it arrived, I opened the envelope to find a BEAUTIFUL 200 page full-color coffee-table book!

We all have that one neighbor that we want to know more about–she’s lead the most interesting life, and if we could just sit down for tea with her we know we’d learn a lifetime of history. Eva Maze is one of those people, and opening With Ballet in My Soul is that afternoon tea. So you better have a big pot ready, because you’re not going to want to move from your couch until you finish listening to everything she has to tell you.

Eva has been pretty much everywhere. She was born in Romania in the 20s, and then convinced her parents to move to the US so she could see the World’s Fair–THE YEAR BEFORE HITLER INVADED. Her wanderlust saved her family, and from then on she just never stopped globetrotting. Ballet had a great influence on her life, and this book is intertwined with music and theatre and great talent.

But what I really loved about it were the pictures. Usually when you read a memoir, the pictures are a second thought that the publisher tosses into the center of the book. Not here. They are published along with the story, and as I said before, this is in full-color. It’s the kind of book you want to leave around for someone to idly pick up now and then, and glance through–though definitely actually read it. It doesn’t take long!

Moonstone Press provided a copy of this book for unbiased review. Affiliate links included in this post.

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Tiny Pretty Things

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by ballet. I’ve never actually gone to see one, but the snippets I’ve seen online and in movies are always wonderful. There is a graceful athleticism in ballet that transcends every other form of dance.

But, as with most things, what we see under the spotlights rarely shows the whole picture. What goes on backstage and everything leading up to the performance always fascinates me (see also:  every post about circuses), and the dark underbelly of the art. Tiny Pretty Things gives such a look into dancing at a top New York ballet conservatory.

This book is BIIIITCHY. If you think normal high school is catty, throw together a bunch of career-obsessed dancers. The plot centers around two prima ballerinas:  Bette, the stereotypical ice queen, and Gigi, one of the few black girls to make it to the top in American Ballet. Bette has already sabotaged one girl’s career, and is doing everything she can to do the same to warm and focused Gigi.

The authors also use ballet to discuss anorexia and bulimia. June is a secondary character, but her battle with eating disorder is very vivid. We see another ballerina removed from the school because she’s not following the weight policies–something I don’t think is handled very well, and it doesn’t turn out great. This book becomes all about losing control, both personally and physically.

There were a few holes in the story, though. We never find out two really big parts of the plot. And Henri….just, ew. I didn’t really understand his character at all, who was he and what was the point of him? Just to creep us out? It almost seemed as if the authors wanted Mr. K to be deviant and set him up that way, but then changed their minds, so pushed it onto Henri. It set up for a sequel, but I won’t continue, I needed more answers in order to continue on, and I’m just not hooked enough. Three book dragons.

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