The biggest dance event of the 1997 spring season was the publication of a book: Julie Kavanagh’s Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton.[1] The whispering chorus of kudos began last fall, when a lucky few New Yorkers got advance copies out of England, where the book was first published. Everything about Secret Muses felt right: Kavanagh had herself been a dancer, so there was understanding; she’d had Ashton’s trust (and intimate chat) far beyond the extent he was willing to trust (and intimately chat with) any other journalist; and she’d been patient—the book was ten years in its meticulous making. It didn’t hurt that Kavanagh made no pretense for her book as critical biography. While there are many passages in which she discusses Ashton’s ballets, offering perspectives that new biographical data have brought into view, she never gets revisionist or...


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