VOGUE, September 2013

Markova as Muse


 “Sutton does an excellent job outlining Markova’s considerable accomplishments while bringing to life a woman of flesh, blood and passion. . . . the book is so chock-full of colorful, telling details, fascinating insights, and charming anecdotes that it makes for a thoroughly engaging read. Sutton’s book is a captivating portrait of a remarkable life to savor slowly.” (more) Karen Campbell, The Boston Globe

–  THE NEW YORKER, 9/30/13

“Sutton’s lively biography makes use of Markova’s personal papers, which she quotes at length . . . the book traces a remarkable career, and captures her spirit of relentless hard work.”

THE LIST, U.K. (award-winning Arts and Entertainment magazine/website), 9/23/14

“Meticulously researched and dynamically written homage to Britain’s first ballet star.” (more) by Kelly Apter


“The prodigious ballerina comes roaring back to life in Tina Sutton’s biography, which chronicles, with generosity and balance, an extraordinary life, as much a celebration of female gutsiness as ballet greatness. You get the sense that until now, we didn’t really know the woman behind the rapturous reviews. Thanks to Sutton, you can’t help falling in love with her.” — Deborah Meyers, Dance International Magazine

Named one of BOOKLIST’s top 10 Arts Books of the year (2013):

“Sutton is spellbinding as she tells the little-known story of how a Jewish Londoner, Lilian Alicia Marks, became Dame Alicia Markova, a prodigiously gifted, courageous, and world-renowned ballerina.”

BOOKLIST, (full review)

Dame Alicia Markova, once “the most famous ballerina in the world,” was a Jewish Londoner, born Lilian Alicia Marks and given her stage name by Sergei Diaghilev when he brought her into the Ballet Russes at age 14. The unlikeliest of ballerinas — “bone thin,” flat-footed, knock-kneed, and sickly — she was nonetheless a true prodigy, possessing not only “technical bravura” but also a sterling work ethic, a “phenomenal memory” for music and choreography, and a versatile gift for design.  Sutton, an arts journalist for the Boston Globe, makes superlative use of the extraordinarily comprehensive archive Markova maintained until her death at 94 in 2004. Sutton’s sense of wonderment lights up every page of this hard-to-believe, utterly transporting story of discipline, commitment, hardship, and steely self-reliance. An artist and a hero, Markova publicly expressed pride in her heritage when Hitler came to power and refused requests to have her nose “reduced” to look less Jewish. She endured vicious sabotage attempts, grueling tours, and heartache. A brilliant classical dancer, she also performed revolutionary modern works with soaring artistry, collaborating with Ashton, Balanchine, Stravinsky, and Chagall. And she circled the globe “to spread the gospel of ballet.”

Quoting dexterously from Markova’s electrifying journals, Sutton brings Markova and her world to scintillating life in this ravishing biography of perpetual motion, limelight and darkness, courage and creativity.   – Donna Seaman


“Tina Sutton’s biography of legendary prima ballerina Alicia Markova is an ardent and complex choreography of its own. Following Markova from her humble beginnings to the apogee of her career as a dancer, muse, and fashion icon,The Making of Markova is a compelling and wonderfully readable portrait of a fiercely independent artist who left an indelible mark on the world. ” (Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire)

“The pas de deux would seem the most unlikely topic to yield a page-turner, but Sutton has done it with her fascinating portrait of Alicia Markova. Sutton’s poignant, playful Markova shatters the stereotype of the pampered aesthete and deftly places her at the center of an era of breathtaking artistic ferment.” (Greg Dawson, author of Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival)

The Making of Markova is both a surprisingly intimate portrait of one of Britain’s and ballet’s truly great souls and a sweeping depiction of the kinetic, star-studded world of international ballet in the first half of the twentieth century. Tina Sutton’s lucid, deft and limber style admirably suits her subject.” (Paul Thomas Murphy, author of Shooting Victoria, a New York Times Notable Book)


Alicia Markova (née Lilian Alicia Marks, 1910–2004) was England’s first homegrown ballerina. Her career began when, as a young teen, she was asked to join the Ballets Russes. Markova danced professionally for half her life and was universally considered the greatest ballerina of her generation. Several biographies about her have been written throughout the 20th century, but journalist Sutton (Color Harmony Compendium: A Complete Color Reference for Designers of All Types) is the first to have had access to her archive of extraordinary materials, housed at Boston University’s Gotlieb Center. Sutton maintains a genuine fascination with all aspects of Markova’s life. Told chronologically, with a judicious blend of diary excerpts, letters, interviews, newspaper clippings, and straightforward narrative, this book is a compellingly readable history of Markova, her family—both biological and balletic—and her world of arts and culture. VERDICT Though several excellent ballet biographies and histories have been written over the past few years (including Sjeng Scheijen’s Diaghilev: A Life and Jennifer Homans’s Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet), this work stands out for its inclusiveness. As Sutton states, “Markova believed firmly in ballet for everyone, not just the elite.” That belief is a theme in this work, which will be appreciated by anyone who enjoys informative, entertaining biographies or mid-20th-century performing arts and culture.—­Martha Stone, Treadwell Lib., Boston

BOOKSLUT.COM, August 2013

“A success story without scandal might leave a reader yearning for something more provocative. And yet The Making of Markova, Tina Sutton’s extensive biography on Alicia Markova, the groundbreaking British ballerina, is as captivating as Markova’s performances were.” (more)  – Molly O’Brien

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