Mr. B: George Balanchine's 20th Century by Jennifer Homan (Random House) has won the 2023 Plutarch Award for the Best Biography of 2022, sponsored by the Biographers International Organization (BIO).
Award committee chair Deirdre David said, "For the Plutarch judges, Jennifer Homans' magnificent biography of the choreographer George Balanchine presented a perfect model of seamless narrative integration of the life with the work. With impeccable research, Homans traces Balanchine's life from joining the Imperial Ballet School in Revolutionary St. Petersburg at nine years old to becoming in 1948 the co-founder (with Lincoln Kirstein) of the New York City Ballet. Drawing upon her experience as a trained dancer and her distinction as a ballet critic, Homans creates a thrilling narrative of choreographic innovation that was developed, displayed, and applauded in Russia, in Weimar Germany, in Paris, and eventually in New York. As she puts it, 'his entire life was ballet': the women he loved (and there were many), the music he chose, the dancers he worked with, his 'keen sensuality,' all served the world of ballet. Beautifully crafted, Homans' gorgeous tribute to a 20th-century artistic genius enthralls, educates, and dazzles the reader."
Homans is the dance critic for the New Yorker and a former dancer who trained at George Balanchine's School of America Ballet. She spent more than a decade researching Balanchine's life and times to write a history of the 20th century through the lens of one of its greatest artists.
In other BIO news, the organization has received a $1 million gift from biographer Kitty Kelley, author of bestselling, unauthorized biographies of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, the British royal family, the Bush family, and Oprah Winfrey. Beginning June 1, Kelley is giving the gift in increments of $200,000 over five years.
BIO's long-range planning committee will oversee the gift and make recommendations for its application to the board of directors. The gift is the single-largest contribution ever received by BIO.
None of the Above: Reflections on Life Beyond by Travis Alabanza has won the 2023 Jhalak Prize, and When Our Worlds Collided by Danielle Jawando has won the 2023 Jhalak Children's & YA Prize. The awards "seek to celebrate books by British/British resident BAME writers." Each winner receives £1,000 (about $1,235) along with a work of art created by artists chosen for the annual Jhalak Art Residency.