Memoirs, I Love Em
The genre of memoir has always been a favorite of mine. Somewhat ‘nosey’ by nature, I tend to enjoy intimate glimpses into lives and experiences of different kinds of people. A few standout memoirs I have read to date include Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, Carly’s Voice by Arthur and Carly Fleischmann, and of course, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles 1974-2001 by Don Felder.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed the book With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario by Eva Maze. This memoir is a chronicle of Maze’s amazing life as a 20th century theatrical impresario for the better part of four decades.
The subjects of all four memoirs referenced above have very little in common with one another. However, all four people chronicled do share one commonality. The link between poverty-stricken, vagrant child Jeanette Walls, nonverbal autistic-turned-autism advocate and author Carly Fleischmann, legendary Eagles lead guitarist Don Felder, and theatrical impresario Eva Maze, is this: they all have lived lives that do not resemble my own. For most memoirs I read, this quality is a must-have in order keep me interested.
Regarding memoirs of my choosing, I have also noticed the fact that I am frequently drawn to stories that detail extraordinary life experiences. Regarding theatrical impresario Eva Maze, the subject of the memoir With Ballet In My Soul, the life she has led over the past 95 years is certainly fitting of the above description.
Familiar Often = Boring
Why would I want to read about people whom I have almost nothing in common with? Here are two reasons.
- When I read, I seek to escape my own reality. I’d really rather NOT read about the life of a suburban wife and mother of two who teaches elementary school children for a living in 2017. That’s my every day reality! (Plus, how boring does THAT story sound?) While I do love the life I’ve created, I wouldn’t exactly label it as memoir-worthy. Yet. I’m only halfway to the finish line, yo!
- As I read, I enjoy seeking deeper, less obvious connections to the subject or main character. When reading a memoir, I am often pleasantly surprised when I end up making personal connections with the book’s subject. This is especially true when initially, I predict there will be no common threads whatsoever. For example, in The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls loved her father unconditionally, as I do my own. So even though Jeanette and I had vastly different childhoods (and I am quite thankful for that), I still understood Jeanette, as well as the choices she made, on some level, when it came to her and her father’s relationship.
In the case of Eva Maze, the unwavering support of her husband was instrumental in her eventual success as an impresario. Similarly, my husband Mike has always supported all of my endeavors, past and present. Eva Maze and I also both have two daughters, and additionally, we could both be characterized as more “working mom-esque” than “domestic engineer goddess.”
These ‘hidden commonalities’ I discover as I read a memoir helps me better relate to the person of interest’s struggles and experiences. Often, this then leads to my increased investment in the memoir’s subject, as well as his or her overall story! All of the above occurred as I read Eva Maze’s book, and by the final chapter, I really felt as if I ‘got’ her, differences between us notwithstanding. And this, my friends, is the mark of a well-written book!
An Incredible Life At An Incredible Time
Eva Maze led one heck of an incredible life. So much so, in fact, that this introverted homebody was enraptured as I read about her fast-paced, high-energy life. There truly never seemed to be a dull moment from adolescence onward for Eva Maze.
Reading about all that Maze experienced and accomplished also made me feel tired AF, I ain’t gon’ lie.
Eva Maze turned 95 years old this year. Ninety five! A tremendous quantity of incredible historical events have occurred in the world over the past ninety-five years, and Maze does discuss many of those events in her book. Something that I found particularly interesting, was that she referenced historic events from a European perspective, as she only lived in America during her teens and early twenties, as well as presently in her nineties. (Florida. But of course!). I loved reading about post-World War 2 Germany, and Maze’s firsthand account of what it was like to see the Berlin Wall both built and torn down. This is the kind of stuff they don’t teach kids in school, and they should.
A Glass Ceiling, Shattered
Beyond the impressive scope of world events that Maze has lived through, she also made some history of her own. How? Eva Maze was able to successfully maintain a nearly 4 decade career as one of the first female impresarios, like, ever. She shattered a glass ceiling, excelling in a field previously dominated almost exclusively by men. An even more impressive fact about Maze is that she managed to achieve this feat during the ultra-puritanical 1950s.
One thing that made me feel a tad ragey, feminism-wise, was that in the press Maze was constantly referred to as a “housewife.” I know it was a different time and all, but yo, how successful must a woman be before she can be referred to as just an ‘impresario’ rather than a ‘housewife-turned-impresario’? Every time I saw that, I growled a little under my breath. Truly. And while we as women have come a long way since back in the day with regards to a woman’s defined ‘place’ in society (spoiler alert: our place is wherever the F we want it to be), I think there is still much more ground to be covered.
Though I’m damn glad that whole ‘women are housewives first’ mentality is gone. Well, mostly gone. Completely gone in my world, anyway. Thank Goddess!
What Is An Impresario, Anyway?
Before I read With Ballet in My Soul, I had no idea what an impresario did. However, instead of Googling it, I attempted to use good ol’ context clues to try and figure it out from the book. Since childhood, Eva Maze had a passion for ballet. However, life got in the way of her childhood dance training (for more detail on that, you’ll have to read the book). As a young adult, Maze found herself a decent ballerina and did dabble in performing, but she knew as she entered her late teens/early twenties that she would never be the career prima ballerina her younger self hoped to become.
Eva Maze didn’t dwell on the impossible, and instead, she worked on the possible. How could she channel the intense passion for dance she possessed, yet not actually be a dancer?
By becoming an impresario.
To me, an impresario is “one of the most mentally stressful jobs on Earth, requiring both boss level patience and the ability to people-schmooze.”
I, personally, lack both requirements for the job.
Yeah, I could NOT EVER do that job. Not even for a minute. No way!
To better explain what an impresario does, I will quote Maze herself. An impresario is a “producer, manager of performing artists, touring manager, booking agent, etc” (Maze, 63). For Eva Maze, becoming one of the first female impresarios ever ended up as a full-time business venture that she was both very good at and very successful with.
A Coffee-Table Display-Worthy Volume
Eva Maze details the arc of her career in detail in this book. She includes many personal photos, as well as photocopies of original posters and programs from many of the numerous productions she represented. The book itself, is gorgeous; though larger than standard softcover books, the pages are made of a thick, glossy paper with the same yellow print as seen on the book’s cover. The type is large and easy to read, and there are photos or some sort of visual on almost every page to enhance the reading experience. This book could almost be described as a high-end scrapbook; which is a fitting representation of the fabulous Mrs. Maze.
I truly enjoyed this book! More than I thought I would, actually. I loved the photos and other visuals that Maze included with her story the most. Old photos are so interesting to me; I find it fascinating to be able to “see” what life was like before my time began through pictures, and I thank Eva Maze for the inclusion of so many.
The memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario is an interesting, educational read about a pretty badass lady, and I enthusiastically recommend it to all readers. This book is both a wonderful volume to display, as well as an excellent addition to any book lover’s personal memoir library.
Thank you for reading. Until next time!
Disclosure: The book was provided to the reviewer. All thoughts belong to the reviewer and have not been influenced.