Wilde Times

Patricia Wilde, George Balanchine, and the Rise of New York City Ballet

Joel Lobenthal

At eighty-seven, Patricia Wilde remains a grande dame of the ballet world. As a young star she toured America in the company of the Ballet Russe. In her heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, she was a first-generation member and principal dancer of New York City Ballet during the uniquely dramatic Balanchine era—the golden age of the company and its hugely gifted, influential, exploitative, and dictatorial director. In Wilde Times, Joel Lobenthal brings the world of Wilde and Balanchine, of Tanaquil Le Clercq, Diana Adams, Suzanne Farrell, Maria Tallchief, and many others thrillingly to life. With unfettered access to Wilde and her family, friends, and colleagues, Lobenthal takes the reader backstage to some of the greatest ballet triumphs of the modern era—and some of the greatest tragedies. Through it all Patricia Wilde emerges as a figure of towering strength, grace, and grit. Wilde Times is the first biography of this seminal figure in American dance, written with the cooperation of the star, but wide-ranging in its use of sources to tell the full and intertwining stories of the development of Wilde, of Balanchine, and of American national ballet at its peak in the twentieth century.

Cloth: $27.95 | E-book: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9781611688030
Pages: 312 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: June 7, 2016


  • This first biography of the performer presents a window into the world of Balanchine at an important time in dance history.

    Library Journal
  • Mr. Lobenthal portrays a dance world that has vanished. . .  . He has created a new way of seeing an old subject, and it is very welcome indeed.

    Wall Street Journal
  • As a young dancer I always admired Patricia Wilde’s simplicity, clarity, and nobility onstage. As I grew to know her, I understood her honesty and integrity as a person and a colleague. This biography allows you to see how these qualities were there from her childhood. Her trajectory becomes inspiring.

    Mimi Paul
    former ballerina for New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre
  • Lobenthal has produced yet another stellar biography of a pivotal midcentury ballerina. As one of George Balanchine’s early elite dancers, Patricia Wilde was instrumental in shaping both the legendary choreographer’s oeuvre and the blazingly brilliant and aesthetically rigorous style of New York City Ballet. Set against classical ballet’s dynamic, midcentury incarnation in America and Western Europe, Lobenthal’s book eloquently brings those heady days to life. This is a must-read for anyone interested in dance and modern culture.

    Patricia Mears
    deputy director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
  • Joel Lobenthal’s account of the life and times of Patricia Wilde is a deeply enjoyable and important book. The openhearted spirit of its subject is conveyed throughout, via wise observations and astute quotes. The book offers as well reams of information about Balanchine’s early American choreography and the first years of New York City Ballet. A compelling rendition of a crucial, too-often-forgotten time in our cultural history.

    Elizabeth Kendall
    author of Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer

About the Author

Joel Lobenthal

Joel Lobenthal is associate editor of the quarterly Ballet Review. He was chief dance critic for the New York Sun from 2005 until the paper closed in 2008. He has also written about dance, opera, theater, film, and books for Capital New York, City Arts, Playbill, Dance Magazine, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, and the New York Post. He is the author of Tallulah! and coauthor of Dancing on Water with Elena Tchernichova. He …

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