By Bennett Kremen
When a raven-haired, high-minded beauty like Anyaskaya d’Borovik, the renowned doyenne of a spirited Greenwich Village dance troop, succumbs in passion to a rugged, willful man like “Sonny Boy” Aiello, the question always asked is, “Why?”
Anya, a sophisticated, fiercely dedicated artist, flourishing in radiance throughout my novel, The Performance, keeps pushing herself beyond the perpetually challenging boundaries of modern dance and of life itself—hungering for the mysteries and ecstasies of universal consciousness cherished by the mystical traditions of her highborn White Russian heritage, and compelled by the stormy, creative yearnings haunting the very soul of the Village. Yet we find her in the embrace of a torrid, dangerous love with an ominous man raised on the brutal backstreets of Brooklyn’s waterfront.
Cunning and violent—yet with a strange but genuine sense of honor— Sonny Boy smashes his way to infamous power in Little Italy and, yes, the Village, where the mob, though unseen, plays a significant role in its elegant, tree-lined streets and beloved red brick townhouses. It was these willful men who, indeed, were the ones who broke the law, significantly, by allowing gay men to live freely in an after-hours club called the “Stonewall.” And wherever Salvatore Aiello goes in Bensonhurst or on Mulberry Street, people admiringly and eagerly call out, “Hey, Sonny Boy, hey, how ya doin’!”
Anya first encountered Sonny Boy in the Villa daVinci, the exquisite gourmet restaurant he owns. While at a table bright with flowers and fine silver, she was being cruelly harassed by a spurned lover of immense wealth and power. And when her anguish and despair start increasing, Sonny—eyes burning— steps forward; and even the man of wealth and power can only stop dead-cold without another word. For many frightful weeks thereafter, although Anya tries desperately to resist Sonny Boy’ ardent desire, she fails utterly—while the man she’d turned down, Henri Mellington, a vengeful member of an international banking family with vast political connections, keeps stewing in his bitterness.
Ultimately, with the aid of an influential senator, Mellington has a deadly government surveillance put on Sonny’s every move while, in a fury, cutting off all his financial support so frantically needed by Anya to mount the most important dance performance of her life—one of shattering artistic and spiritual meaning, attracting great interest from the press and well-known critics. Anya struggles through this, nonetheless, and despite extreme emotional cost manages to scare up the funds she so badly must have. And at last, exciting rehearsals with great promise and striking, dedicated dancers joyfully commence, launching the so longed-for glorious performance, which traps Mellington in his rage only more deeply.
Sonny and Anya then embark on an erotic, adventurous affair with daring sailing trips through storms to Block Island, exquisite, sparkling dinners at the Villa daVinci and nostalgic vodka-charged moments at Russian night clubs in Brighten Beach. And then the affair turns breathlessly into true love, despite the relentless government surveillance pressing in on them more ominously each day. And in this rising danger, the meaning of love, honor, friendship, violence, artistic passion and moral behavior is felt ever more keenly. Stirred, finally, by these revelations and her high principles, Anya—exerting the profound powers of her personality—can’t help prevailing upon Sonny Boy to begin changing his ways. And that, ultimately, in the deepest of ironies, brings down true tragedy.