George Balanchine – American Ballet Theatre
George Balanchine, considered the foremost contemporary ballet choreographer, arrived in the United States in late 1933 after an early career throughout Europe.
Her trip to the United States in 1933 was at the invitation of Lincoln Kirstein, the Boston-born dance connoisseur whose dream was to establish an American ballet school equivalent to European schools, as well as an American ballet company. Kirstein had met Balanchine in Paris after seeing a performance by the company he directed there, Les Ballets 1933; The two were introduced by Romola Nijinsky, widow of the famous Russian dancer, whom Kirstein assisted in her research for a biography of her late husband.
the first result of balanchine kirstein’s collaboration was the american ballet school, founded in early 1934 (the first day of classes, in fact, was january 1 of that year) and existing to this day . It later became the training ground for dancers entering the New York City Ballet, which Balanchine and Kirstein would establish together after 14 more years, in 1948. Balanchine’s first ballet in this country was Serenade, choreographed in 1934 with music by Tchaikovsky, which was first performed outdoors at a friend’s estate near White Plains, New York, as a workshop performance.
in 1935, kirstein and balanchine created a traveling company of dancers from the school and called it the american ballet. that same year the metropolitan opera invited the company to become its resident ballet, with balanchine as the met’s ballet master. However, scant funds allowed Balanchine to stage only two entirely dance-oriented works, while with the Met, a dance drama version of Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice and a Stravinsky program, featuring a revival of one of the balanchine’s first ballets, apollo, plus two new works, le baiser de la fée, and card game.
Despite the popular and critical success of the latter show, Balanchine and Encounter parted ways in early 1938, and Balanchine spent the next several years teaching school and working in musical theater and motion pictures. In 1941, he and Kirstein assembled the American Ballet Caravan, sponsored by Nelson Rockefeller, which toured South America with new Balanchine creations such as Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial (later renamed Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2). Then, from 1944 to 1946, Balanchine was called in as Artistic Director to help revitalize the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; for them he created raymonda and the sonnambula.
in 1946, balanchine and kirstein collaborated again to form the ballet society, a company that presented new works by balanchine such as the four temperaments (1946) and stravinsky’s renard (1947) and orpheus (1948).
On October 11, 1948, Morton Baum, chairman of the downtown finance committee, saw the ballet society in a downtown theater program that included Orpheus, Serenade, and Symphony in C ( a ballet that balanchine had created for the paris ballet opera under the title le palais de crystal the previous year). Baum was so impressed that he entered into negotiations that led to the company being invited to join the Downtown Municipal Complex (which at the time included the New York City Theater Company and the New York City Opera). new york) as the “new york city municipal complex”. city ballet. balanchine’s talents had finally found a permanent home.
since then, balanchine has served as artistic director of the new york city ballet, choreographing (in whole or in part) most of the 175 productions the company has staged since its inception. Notable among them are Firebird (1949; re-staged with Jerome Robbins, 1970); bourrée fantasque (1949); the waltz (1951); The Nutcracker (his first full-length work for the company), Ivesian Symphony and Western (1954); brilliant allegro (1956); agon (1957); Seven Deadly Sins (a revival of the original 1933 ballet production) and Stars and Stripes (1958); episodes (1959); monumentum pro gesualdo and liebeslieder walzer (1960); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1962); movements for piano and orchestra and bugaku (1963); don quixote (in three acts) and harlequinada (in two acts) (1965); jewels (1967) (his first complete ballet without plot) and who cares? (1970). In June 1972, he choreographed Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, Duo Concertante, Choral Variations on Bach’s Von Himmel Hoch, Scherzo à la Russe, Symphony in Three Movements, Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée, and New Versions of Pulcinella (with robbins) and danses concertantes for the stravinsky ballet festival in new york city.
The son of a composer, Balanchine acquired from a young age an understanding of music that far surpassed that of most of his fellow choreographers. She began studying piano at the age of five, and after graduating in 1921 from the Imperial Ballet School (the St. Petersburg academy where she had begun her dance studies at the age of nine), she enrolled at the State Conservatory. of music. , where he studied piano and music theory, including composition, harmony, and counterpoint, for three years. such a broad musical training made it possible for balanchine as a choreographer to communicate with a composer of the stature of igor stravinsky; The training also gave Balanchine the ability to reduce orchestral scores on the piano, an invaluable aid in translating music into dance.
Balanchine made his own debut as a dancer at the age of ten as a Cupid in the Maryinsky Theater Ballet Company’s production of Sleeping Beauty. he joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet at the age of 17 and performed a work for them, called enigmas. however, most of his energies during this period were concentrated on choreographic experiments outside the company.
in the summer of 1924, balanchine was one of four dancers who left the newly formed soviet union to tour western europe. The others were Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova, and Nicholas Efimov, all of whom later became well-known dancers in Europe and the United States. the four dancers were invited by impresario serge diaghilev to audition for his ballets russes in paris and were accepted into the company.
Diaghilev also had his eye on Balanchine as a choreographer, and after seeing him perform a new version of the company’s Stravinsky ballet, Le Rossignol, Diaghilev hired him as ballet master to replace Bronislava Nijinska. Shortly thereafter, Balanchine suffered a knee injury that limited his dancing and consequently reinforced his commitment to choreography full-time.
balanchine served as ballet master with Ballets Russes until the company dissolved upon Diaghilev’s death in 1929. After that, he spent the next few years in a variety of projects that took him all over Europe: choreographing for the Danish royalty ballet; making a film with former Diaghilev dancer Lydia Lopoukhova (then wife of British economist John Maynard Keynes) in England; staging of dance performances for Britain’s popular Cochran musical theater revues; and working with debasil’s ballet russe de monte carlo (where he discovered the young tamara toumanova).
Upon returning to Paris, Balanchine formed his own company, Les Ballets 1933, collaborating with leading artistic figures such as Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (Seven Deadly Sins), artist Pavel Tchelitchev, and composers Darius Milhaud and Henri Sauguet. It was during this period that the meeting with Lincoln Kirstein took place, which would lead to Balanchine’s move from Europe to the United States.
balanchine has choreographed numerous musical comedies over the years, including On Your Toes (which included Massacre on Tenth Avenue, a work in the New York City Ballet Repertory), Cabin in the Sky , Babes in Arms, Where’s Charley?, Song of Norway, 1935’s The Merry Widow, and the New Groove of Ziegfield. She choreographed the operas The Rake’s Progress and The Magic Flute for the Met and collaborated with Stravinsky on the television ballet, Noah and the Flood, in 1962.
balanchine’s style has been described as neoclassical, a reaction to the romantic anti-classicism (which had become exaggerated theatricality) that was the predominant style in Russian and European ballet when he began dancing. As a choreographer, Balanchine has generally tended to downplay the plot in his ballets, preferring to let “the dance be the star of the show,” as he once told an interviewer.
He always preferred to call himself a craftsman instead of a creator, comparing himself to a cook or a cabinetmaker (two trades in which he was quite skilled). He was known throughout the dance world for the calm and collected way in which he works with his dancers and colleagues.
balanchine himself has written: “we must first realize that dance is a completely independent art, not a mere secondary accompaniment. I think it is one of the great arts. what is important in ballet is the movement itself, since it is the sound that is important in a symphony. a ballet may contain a story, but the visual spectacle, not the story, is the essential element. the music of the great musicians can be enjoyed and understood without any verbal introduction and the choreographer and the dancer must remember that they reach the public through the eye and the public, in turn, must train themselves to see what is being performed in the stage. it is the illusion created that convinces the audience, just as much as it is with the work of a magician. if the illusion fails, the ballet fails, no matter how well a program note tells the audience that it has succeeded.”
balachine’s longtime friend and collaborator igor stravinsky once described their partnership on a particular ballet as follows: “balaustrade, the ballet that george balanchine and pavel tchelitchev did of the violin concerto, was one of the most most satisfying visualizations of any of my works balanchine composed the choreography while listening to my recording, and i was able to really observe him conceiving gesture, movement, combination and composition.the result was a series of dialogues perfectly complementary and coordinated with the dialogues of the Music Hofmannsthal once told Strauss: “Ballet is perhaps the only art form that allows a real intimate collaboration between two people endowed with visual imagination.”
architect and principal choreographer of the new york city ballet’s tribute àagrave; ravel festival, balanchine brought to life a three-week celebration of 16 new ballets, eight of which were his own creations. At a ceremony held the night of the company’s Ravel Festival gala at the New York State Theater in May 1975, the French government inducted him into the Legion of Honor. In an extraordinary gesture of esteem, Balanchine was given the rank of officer, a position generally reserved for those with many years of prior Legion membership.
Also in the spring of 1975, the Hollywood Entertainment Hall of Fame inducted Balanchine as a member of a nationally televised special, hosted by Gene Kelly. The first choreographer so honored, he joins the ranks of showbiz luminaries like Fred Astaire, Walt Disney, and Bob Hope. In addition, in May 1975, the National Institute of Arts and Letters presented him with a rarely given award for distinguished service to the arts, an honor of special importance to the 250 outstanding American artists that make up the institute.
in recent years, balanchine has produced two spectacular choreographic achievements. The first was the hour-long Union Jack bicentennial tribute that premiered in May 1976. In the spring of 1977 came perhaps the most lavish production of the New York City Ballet repertoire, Vienna Waltzes, which was received with resounding acclaim from critics and the public. Through the wonders of television, millions of people have been able to watch the New York City Ballet in their own homes. choreography for balanchine, a four-part presentation of dance in america on the pbs great performances series, which began in december 1977. included in the programs were the four temperaments, tzigane, prodigal son, allegro brillante, jewel segments, and ballo della regina, one of his most recent works. Balanchine traveled to Nashville with the company for the video shoots in 1977 and 1978 and personally supervised each shot, in some cases revising steps or angles to make them compatible with the camera. the series has been widely applauded by critics and audiences across the country and was nominated for an emmy award.
in january 1978, the new york city ballet participated for the first time in the critically acclaimed pbs series live from lincoln center. Coppélia, choreographed by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova in 1974, was seen live from the stage of the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. this performance also earned balanchine an emmy nomination.
although the new york city ballet has entered its fourth decade, george balanchine’s energy and achievements continue unabated. two of her most popular recent works, ballo della regina and kammermusik no. 2 premiered in 1978, and in December 1978, Balanchine, along with Marian Anderson, Fred Astaire, Richard Rodgers, and Arthur Rubinstein, was one of five recipients of the Kennedy Center’s first honors. The awards, which were presented by president carter in an official ceremony at the white house, were followed by a nationally televised program honoring the winners and their achievements. the quote read in part: “each has raised the artistic standards to which successors must aspire, but more importantly, each, with talent and dedication, has raised our hearts.”
The 1980s promised even more in terms of creativity and recognition. Balanchine presented four new works to the New York City ballet audience in the spring of 1980: Ballade, with music by Gabriel Fauré; the walpurgisnacht ballet from charles gounod’s opera faust (this ballet was created for the paris opera in 1975, but was restaged for the new york city ballet); richard strauss’s le bourgeois gentilhomme, (balanchine created this comic ballet for the new york city opera in april 1979, and it was first performed by the new york city ballet in may 1980), and finally , in june 1980, robert schumann’s davidsbundlertanze .
In addition, in the spring of 1980, Balanchine was awarded by the National Society of Arts and Letters with its Gold Medal of Merit, and by the New York Chapter of the American Heart Association with its New York Heart Award. . she was also informed that the Austrian government would award her the Austrian Cross of Honor in Sciences and Letters, 1st Class. This award united his French Legion of Honour, his French Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters decoration, and his Knighthood of the Order of the Dannebrog, 1st Class, in 1978, awarded by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. in the list of stellar honors bestowed by foreign governments for their services and contributions to the artistic development of the 20th century.
source:new york city ballet