American Ballet Theatre

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American Ballet Theatre

(ABT), one of the foremost international dance companies of the 20th and 21st cents. It was founded in 1937 as the Mordkin Ballet and reorganized as the Ballet Theatre in 1940 under the direction (1940–80) of Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. It became the American Ballet Theatre in 1956. Its repertoire has included newly staged classical ballets and innovative modern dance works, many concerned with specifically American themes. Most of the company's seasons have been presented in New York City, but it has also toured throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. In 1960 ABT became the first U.S. ballet company to dance in the Soviet Union.

George BalanchineBalanchine, George
, 1904–83, American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. St. Petersburg, Russia, as Georgi Balanchivadze. The son of a Georgian composer and a Russian mother, Balanchine attended (1913–21) the Imperial Ballet School, St.
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, Adolph Bolm, Michel FokineFokine, Michel
, 1880–1942, Russian-American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. Russia. He studied at the Imperial Ballet School (1889–98) and danced at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg.
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, Léonide MassineMassine, Léonide
, 1896–1979, American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. Russia. Massine attended the Imperial Ballet School, St. Petersburg, and became principal dancer and choreographer for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1914–20) and for the Ballet Russe de
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, and Bronislava NijinskaNijinska, Bronislava
, 1891–1972, Russian ballet dancer and choreographer; sister of Vaslav Nijinsky. She studied at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg and then joined the Maryinsky Theatre.
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 staged works for the company, as did the British choreographer Antony TudorTudor, Antony,
1909–87, English choreographer and dancer. Tudor went to the United States at the invitation of the Ballet Theatre, New York City (1939); he danced leading roles and created ballets for several English and American companies and was later the artistic
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, who was introduced to the American public with such works as Pillar of Fire (1942) and Romeo and Juliet (1943). Agnes de Millede Mille, Agnes
(Agnes George de Mille) , 1905–93, American choreographer and dancer, b. New York City; granddaughter of Henry George, daughter of playwright director W. C. de Mille, and niece of Cecil B. De Mille.
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 staged nearly all of her dance works for the company, including Fall River Legend (1948) and The Harvest According (1952). Jerome RobbinsRobbins, Jerome,
1918–98, American choreographer and dancer, b. New York City as Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz. Robbins began his career dancing in musicals (1937). In 1940 he joined the Ballet Theatre and in 1948 became associate artistic director of the New York City Ballet.
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's Fancy Free (1944) and Michael Kidd's On Stage (1945) were also created for the company, as were Alvin AileyAiley, Alvin, Jr.
, 1931–89, American modern dancer and choreographer, b. Rogers, Tex. Ailey studied in Los Angeles with Lester Horton, whose strong, dramatic style and views about multiracial casting influenced his choreography and artistic direction.
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's The River (1970) and Twyla TharpTharp, Twyla
, 1941–, American dancer and choreographer, b. Portland, Ind. An eclectic, innovative choreographer and dancer, she danced (1963–65) with Paul Taylor.
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's Push Comes to Shove (1976). Dancers who gained fame or reached their peak with the American Ballet Theatre include Alicia AlonsoAlonso, Alicia
(Alicia Alonso Martínez) , 1921–, Cuban ballerina and choreographer, b. Havana. Alonso danced in Broadway musicals before becoming a soloist with several leading companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, in 1939.
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, Alicia MarkovaMarkova, Dame Alicia
, 1910–2004, English ballerina. Her original name was Lilian Alicia Marks. Markova joined Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1924 and, in 1931, the Vic-Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet), becoming its first prima ballerina in 1933.
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, Erik BruhnBruhn, Erik
, 1929–86, Danish ballet dancer, b. Copenhagen. Bruhn joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 1947 and became a soloist there in 1949. He was widely regarded as one of the world's foremost dancers, combining dramatic flair with a subtle precision of style.
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, Nora KayeKaye, Nora
(Nora Koreff), 1920–87, American ballerina, b. New York City. Kaye studied with Michel Fokine and Antony Tudor. She joined the Ballet Theatre in 1940 and scored a major triumph in 1942 in Pillar of Fire.
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, and Natalia MakarovaMakarova, Natalia,
1940–, Russian ballet dancer, b. Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). She studied at the Choreographic School in her native city, graduating in 1959, and joined the Kirov Ballet.
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. Mikhail BaryshnikovBaryshnikov, Mikhail
, 1948–, Russian-American dancer and choreographer, b. Riga, Latvia (then in the USSR). He studied in Riga and performed with the Kirov Ballet (1966–74).
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 was artistic director of the company from 1980 to 1990 and was followed in that position by Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith (1990–92) and Kevin McKenzie (1992–).

Bibliography

See A. Olshan, ed, American Ballet Theatre: The First Fifty Years (1989), E. Kay, The American Ballet Theatre: A 25-Year Retrospective (1999); study by C. Payne (1978).

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