George Balanchine Essay, Research Paper
George Balanchine, or originally Georgy Melitonovich Balanchivadze, a
Russian-born choreographer, is recognized as one of the foremost
choreographers in the history of ballet.
George was among a generation of dancers who spent the years of World
War 1 at the Imperial school of ballet at the Mariinsky theatre. George was the
son of a composer, and he also studied music from 1921 to 1924 at the
Petrograd Conservatory in St. Petersburg.
As a student Balanchine had already tried choreography. His first work in
1920 was a short piece danced to Anton Rubinsteins Nuit . He also
choreographed works for the evenings of experimental ballet performed by
himself and his colleagues at the State school of Ballet. These early works
were criticized as too avant – guarde.
In 1924 Balanchine was one of four dancers who left the newly formed Soviet
Union for a tour of Western Europe. All four dancers were invited by
Impresario Sergei Diaghitev to audition for his Ballet Russes in Paris and were
accepted into the company.
Diaghitev also had his eye on Balanchine as a choreographer aswell, and after
watching him stage a new version of the company s Stravinsky ballet, Le
chant de Rossignol , Diaghitev hired him as ballet master to replace
Shortly after this, Balanchine suffered a knee injury which limited his dancing
and made him commit to full – time choreography. Balanchine served as a
ballet master with the Ballet Russes until the company was dissolved following
Diaghitev s death in 1929.
Balanchine returned to Paris in 1933 and formed his own company, Les
Boston – born dance Connoisseur Lincoln Kirstein had a dream to establish an
American school of ballet that would equal and even rival the established
Balanchine was persuaded to move to America and he became the
choreographer for the School of American Ballet, which was founded in 1934.
The school remains in operation today , training students for the New York
City Ballet and companies throughout the United States and the world.
The first ballet Balanchine choreographed in America was Serenade , to
music by Tschaikovsky. It was created as a workshop for students and had its
world premiere outdoors on an estate in New York.
In 1935, Kirstein and Balanchine set up a touring 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 ballet Master. Tight funding permitted Balanchine to mount only two
completely dance – oriented works while with the Metropolitan Opera, a
dance-drama version of Glucks Orfeo and Eurydice and an all-Stravinsky
program, featuring a revival of one of Balanchine s first ballets. Apollo .
Despite the popular and critical success , Balanchine and the Metropolitan
Opera separated in early 1938.
Balanchine spent his next years teaching at the school and working in musical
theatre and films. In 1941, he and Kirstein assembled the American Ballet
Caravan, which toured South America with Balanchines new creations
Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial . From 1944 to 1946, Balanchine was
called in as artistic director to help revitalize the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo.
In 1946, Balanchine and Kirstein collaborated again to form Ballet Society, a
company which introduced New York subscription – only audiences to such
new Balanchine works as The Four Temperaments and Stravinsky s
Renard and Orpheus .
Morton Baum, chairman of the City Center finance committee, saw Ballet
Society during one of these performances. He was so highly impressed that
he initiated negotiations that led to the company being invited to join the City
Center municipal complex ( of which at the time the New York City Drama
Company and the New York City Opera were a part of) as the New York City
October 11 1948, the New York City Ballet was born, dancing a program
consisting of Concerto Barocco , Orpheus , and Symphony in c .
From that time until his death, Balanchine served as artictc direcor for the New
York City Ballet, choreographing the majority of the productions the company
has introduced since its inception. Among them were:
Bouree Fantasque – 1949
The Nutcracker – 1954
Western Symphony -1954
Allegro Brillante -1956
Agon – 1957
The Seven Deadly Sins -1958
Stars and Stripes – 1958
Balanchine s style has been described as neoclassic, as reaction to the
Romantic anti-classicim that was the prevailing style in Russian and European
ballet when he had began to dance. As a choreographer, Balanchine generally
de-emphasized plot in his ballets, preferring to let dance be the star of the
show , as he told an interviewer.
Balanchine himself wrote:
We must first realize that dancing is an absolutely independent art, not merely
a secondary accompanying one. I believe that it is one of the great arts. Like
the music of great musicians, it can be enjoyed and understood without any
verbal introduction or explanation…… The important thing in ballet is that
movement itself, as it is sound which is important in a symphony. A ballet may
contain a story, but visual spectacle, not the story is the essential element.
The choreographer and the dancer must remember that they reach the
audience throught the eye – and the audience , in its turn, must train itself to
see what is performed upon the stage. It is the illusion created which
convinces the audience, 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 .
School of American Ballet. Biography of George Balanchine
Robin May – The World of Ballet Great Britain, 1981