George Balanchine

Often styled as the father of American ballet, George Balanchine was one of the most prolific and famous dance choreographers of the 20th century, as well as co-founder of the School of American Ballet and the New ... Read more »

Born: 01/21/1904 in Russia

Filmography

Actor (1)

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq 2014 (Movie)

Himself (Actor)
other (1)

I Was an Adventuress (Movie)

(Choreography)
Other (17)

Lincoln Center Celebrates Balanchine's 100 2003 - 2004 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Center Stage 2000 (Movie)

choreography of Stars and Stripes (Choreographer)

A Renaissance Revisited 1995 - 1996 (TV Show)

Choreographer

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker 1993 (Movie)

choreography (Choreographer)

Balanchine in America 1990 - 1991 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Dancing For Mr. B: Six Balanchine Ballerinas 1989 - 1990 (TV Show)

Choreographer

American Ballet Theatre 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Choreography By Balanchine, Part I 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Choreography by Balanchine, Part II 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Coppelia 1977 - 1978 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Dance Theatre of Harlem 1976 - 1977 (TV Show)

Choreographer

The Turning Point 1977 (Movie)

choreography("Pas de Deux") (Choreographer)

The Pennsylvania Ballet 1975 - 1976 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Three By Balanchine 1974 - 1975 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Biography

Often styled as the father of American ballet, George Balanchine was one of the most prolific and famous dance choreographers of the 20th century, as well as co-founder of the School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet. His work under Sergei Diaghilev as the ballet master of the Ballets Russes had an inescapable influence on modern dance in all its forms, both traditional ballet and the more experimental dance styles that followed. In particular, he helped popularize serious dance as a popular art form through his work on Broadway and in grand Hollywood musicals.

Balanchine was born Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze in St. Petersburg during the twilight years of the Russian Empire on January 22, 1904. Balanchine's father was Meliton Balanchivadze, noted Georgian opera singer and composer and one of the founding members of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre. As a child, Balanchine was not particularly interested in ballet. Ironically, it was not his father who served as the young Balanchine's cultural influence; his mother, Maria Nikolayevna Vasilyeva, was fond of the art form and insisted that her son audition for ballet, which she viewed as a form of social advancement. In 1913, Balanchine was accepted at the Imperial Ballet School, where he studied under famed Russian dancer Pavel Gerdt. In 1920, he choreographed his first work, a ballet duet named "La Nuit." He graduated in 1921 and immediately enrolled at the Petrograd Conservatory while simultaneously working in the corps de ballet at the State Academy Theater for Opera and Ballet.

After graduating from the conservatory, Balanchine and his wife moved to Paris where ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev invited Balanchine to join his ballet company, Ballets Russes, as a choreographer. His term there was a prolific period for Balanchine. Between 1924 and 1929, Balanchine became the company's ballet master and produced nine ballets, which included Igor Stravinsky's "Apollo" (1928). After the Ballets Russes relocated to Monte Carlo following Diaghilev's death, Balanchine moved to New York. One of his first projects was to establish a ballet school that would develop dancers capable of following his technique and style. Along with New York City arts patron Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine founded the School of American Ballet in January 1934. In the ensuing years, Balanchine choreographed several Broadway productions with the American songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, including Rodgers' legendary "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" dance sequence from the 1936 hit "On Your Toes."

At the onset of World War II, Balanchine temporarily relocated to Hollywood, where he choreographed dance sequences for five movies, all of which featured Vera Zorina, whom he married shortly after they met on the set of "The Goldwyn Follies" (1938). Near the end of the 1940s, Balanchine returned to New York City and formed a new dance company, Ballet Society, which later became the New York City Ballet. Despite his advancing age, Balanchine continued to orchestrate new interpretations of classic ballets, which included two of his fellow countryman Peter Tchaikovsky's most famous works, "Swan Lake" (1951) and "The Nutcracker" (1955). Even in the 1960s, Balanchine created and revised nearly forty ballets such as "Don Quixote" (1965), where he played the title role despite a knee injury he suffered nearly twenty years before that had effectively ended his performance career. In 1972, Balanchine proposed a festival dedicated to his longtime collaborator, Igor Stravinsky, who died a year before.

In his later years, Balanchine's physical health began to fail due to illness. Beginning in 1978, he started to lose his balance while dancing; as the years passed, he became increasingly uncoordinated while his eyesight and hearing deteriorated. By 1982, he was incapacitated and developed angina which required heart bypass surgery. As cruel as it was for a noted dancer to spend the last days of his life in physical impairment, Balanchine's accomplishments was dutifully recognized at the highest order. On February 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan awarded Balanchine the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the art of dance. With Balanchine unable to attend the ceremony due to his deteriorating health, the medal was accepted on his behalf by Suzanne Farrell, principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and one of Balanchine's former students. On April 30, 1983, George Balanchine died in Manhattan; it was only after he death that he was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable and fatal neurological disorder. In his wake, Balanchine captivated an entire generation and modernized ballet for the 20th Century through his talent and art.

EDUCATION

Imperial Ballet School

1921

Milestones

1983

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his cult

1978

Receipient of Kennedy Center Honors

1948

Founded the New York City Ballet

1934

Founded the School of American Ballet

Bonus Trivia

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Often considered the "Father of American Ballet"

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