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George Balanchine

(1904—1983) Russian-born American ballet dancer and choreographer


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1904–1983)

Russian-born US dancer and choreographer.

Son of a Georgian folk musician, Balanchine studied at the Imperial Ballet School and the Petrograd Conservatory of Music. In his early years he was torn between his love of dance and his desire to become a composer. He choreographed his first piece, La Nuit, at the age of sixteen when he began to experiment in various balletic styles and types of music. In 1924, while touring Europe, he was engaged by Diaghilev in Berlin and within a year, at the age of twenty-one, was appointed principal choreographer to the nomadic Ballets Russes. During the next four years Balanchine choreographed ten ballets, the most significant of which were Apollo (1928), set to the music of Stravinsky, and The Prodigal Son (1929), set to the music of Prokofiev.

Balanchine travelled widely during this period and in 1934 he became a co-founder of the School of American Ballet in New York. In the same year he also choreographed his first American ballet, Serenade, which further developed his interest in preserving and transforming classical Russian ballet. Balanchine insisted that the company's high standard of performance was maintained and in 1948 the troupe became the New York City Ballet – recognized as one of the world's most important companies. Balanchine choreographed one hundred ballets and revivals for the company with a wide range of musical scores. The music of Stravinsky remained the primary inspiration throughout his career, however, and was used in works such as Agon (1957), Monumentum pro Gesualdo (1960), and Rubies (1967). Other works included Concerto barocco (1941), Danses concertantes (1944), Theme and Variations (1947), and Symphony in Three Movements (1972).

Subjects: Dance.


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