George Balanchine

The Bits In Between . . . Balanchine was trained at the Imperial Ballet Academy and studied composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His early works, for the 1922 series Evenings of Young Ballet, were criticized as too avant-garde. In 1925, while touring in Europe with his small company, he joined the Diaghilev Company in Paris as a choreographer. After the impresario Sergey Diaghilev died in 1929, Balanchine choreographed for several companies, and in 1933 he organized his own group, Les Ballets. In 1934 the American ballet patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96) invited him to New York City to co-found and direct the School of American Ballet (now part of the Juilliard School) and the American Ballet Company. When that company dissolved in 1938, Balanchine created works for various opera and ballet companies and for musical comedies; his work for The Boys from Syracuse (1938 and the famous ballet sequence Slaughter on Tenth Avenue in On Your Toes (1936) established ballet as a permanent element of the musical. In 1946 he co-founded Ballet Society, which in 1948 became the New York City Ballet. Under his direction this company became one of the world’s great performing groups, with a repertory consisting largely of his ballets.

Famous Works: Balanchine is considered the foremost representative of neoclassicism in ballet. Through him, ballet in the U.S. has a direct connection with the Russian classical ballet tradition of the celebrated 19th-century choreographer Marius Petipa. Although ballets such as The Nutcracker (1954; revised 1964) and the powerful Don Quixote (1965) have a story line, Balanchine is best known for his plotless ballets, such as The Four Temperaments (1946) and Jewels (1967), which explore dance for the sake of pattern and the movement of the human body. Known also for his musical sensitivity, he choreographed music of many 20th-century composers, among them the Russian Sergey Prokofiev (The Prodigal Son, 1929), the Austrian-born Arnold Schoenberg (Opus 34, 1954), and the American Charles Ives (Ivesiana, 1954). His nearly 40-year friendship with the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky resulted in works such as Apollon Musagète (1928; revised as Apollo, 1957), Agon (1956), and Violin Concerto (1972). Balanchine’s more than 100 ballets also include the lyric Liebeslieder Walzer (1960) and Americana such as Stars and Stripes (1958).

Profile: Russian-American choreographer, one of the foremost choreographers in the history of ballet, particularly in the neoclassical style.

Born: The son of a composer, he was born Georgy Melitonovich Balanchivadze on January 22, 1904, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Died: New York City, April 30, 1983.