Deirdre Kelly

Ballerina As Screen Siren: Vera Zorina

Vera Zorina is the stage name of the  Berlin-born Eva Brigitta Hartwig who served as muse to two 20th century choreographic geniuses: Leonide Massine and George Balanchine. The former was her lover when she was not yet 18, becoming entangled in an open love triangle involving Massine and his wife, who for good reason hated Zorina, a natural born beauty with extraordinary sex appeal. The latter she married in 1938, becoming the third Mrs. George Balanchine until their divorce in 1944. Their marriage covers a fascinating period in the choreographer’s life in that he was then struggling to be known. His wife was the bigger star, being invited by Samuel Goldwyn himself to star in a series of Hollywood films that made her a household name. Balanchine choreographed some of the dance sequences for her in particular The Goldwyn Follies, in which he presented her as a nymph in a skin-tight costume that clung to her curves even more tenaciously when wet. Balanchine ingenuously presented her rising out of a pool of water, a kind of modern-day Venus. Her book, written in the first-person, underscores how much she despised being adored for her looks alone. Zorina wanted to be a great dancer. Balanchine coached her, giving her starring roles in his Apollon Musagete and Errante, for instance. But she is better known to audiences as a screen siren who was friends with Marlene Dietrich ( who also found her sexy to the point of wanting to seduce her herself), Balanchine friend and collaborator Igor Stravinsky, and co-star Peter Lorre, among others. Illustrated, the book is a smooth and entertaining read. But it is also highly insightful in showing the very human side of some of ballet’s greatest artists. Zorina died in 2003, at age 86. She write this in 1986. We are so very glad she did.

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