One of my favorite things about running this blog is getting to connect with other people. In this case, I also got a new book out of it!
When I was first contacted about reviewing With Ballet in My Soul, I didn’t even know what an impresario was. But “ballet” was in the title and that meant something related to dance, so of course I was interested in reading the book. Yes, I judged a book by its cover (or title).
I learned that an impresario was like a booking agent/tour manager for dancers and other performance artists. Ms. Maze was one of the first females to take on this challenging and rewarding career that took her around the world and back again.
The book is divided into chapters named for the places Ms. Maze has called home over her 95-year life. As you can see, there are a lot!
Her story starts with a diagnosis of scarlet fever at the age of 7. Not a difficult disease to treat nowadays, but in 1929, it could have easily been a death sentence. A surgeon saved Eva’s life by breaking the mastoid bones behind her ears to allow the fluid buildup in her brain to drain. She carries two small scars from that surgery to this day.
What a dramatic beginning, right? Following her childhood brush with death, Eva’s life was actually relatively comfortable, though she was present for some incredible world-changing events. She lived in London after World War 1 while the city was recovering from the countless bombings. She was living in Berlin when the wall between the East and West was first constructed. She was running a folklore festival at the 1972 Summer Olympics when multiple members of the Israeli Olympic team were murdered by terrorists.
I was a little thrown off at first as I read the book because the tone felt childlike and almost naive, not what I would expect from a woman pushing 100. Eva maintains a youthful positive outlook on life throughout the book and I think my own cynicism affected my perception of her story-telling. Sometimes though, she would mention something offhand like the fact that she was several months pregnant during her first tour as an impresario or she would talk about problems on tour like they weren’t a big deal. For example, none of the musicians’ instruments made it to their destination on the day of a performance or one of the key performers decided last minute he didn’t want to perform. I wanted to tell her, “whoa, wait a minute! Go back and tell me more about that!”
I realized that recalling all of these events decades later would give one a greater perspective. The things that may have been dramatic at the time don’t seem like such a big deal when compared to an entire life; they are just pieces that fit into a larger puzzle.
I learned that Eva is an incredibly intelligent and accomplished woman. She speaks eight languages (holy cow!) and ran several international tour companies during a time when women were expected to stay home and raise the children. The book focuses on Eva’s career, so you don’t learn a lot about her husband or her two daughters. It made me curious about the family dynamics with two parents whose careers took them to different parts of the world, sometimes separately.
It’s amazing how much this woman has accomplished in her life. They probably could have created three books with her stories! She also amassed a huge collection of memorabilia, some of which is shared in the book in the form of photographs, newspaper clippings and flyers or posters from her shows.
My only critique is the book is pretty much a chronology of events. I wanted more insight into Eva as a person, as opposed to a list of the dance companies and people she worked with. It wasn’t until the very last chapter that I felt like I could really hear Eva speaking through the pages. I wanted more of that! It’s neat to read all of the famous companies and people she worked with over the years, but I crave the personal stories. I wanted to know more of what was really going through her head.
If you’re intrigued to learn more about this adventurous globetrotter, Eva Maze’s memoir is available on Amazon. I think I’m going to read the book again. Maybe I can glean more insight into this amazing woman the second time around. I’ll be sure to update this review if I do!