George Balanchine

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Balanchine, George

(băl`ənshēn'), 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. Petersburg, and performed in Russia. In 1924 he toured Europe and joined DiaghilevDiaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich
, 1872–1929, Russian ballet impresario and art critic, grad. St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, 1892. In 1898 he founded an influential journal, Mir Iskusstva [The World of Art].
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's Ballets Russes as a principal dancer and choreographer (1924–29). After moving to the United States (1933), he became director of ballet for the Metropolitan Opera House (1934–37) and a founder, with Lincoln KirsteinKirstein, Lincoln
, 1907–96, American dance and theater executive and writer, b. Rochester, N.Y. One of the most significant figures in 20th cent. American ballet, Kirstein was cofounder of the American Ballet and the School of the American Ballet in 1934 and of Ballet
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, of the School of American Ballet (1934). In 1946 the two men founded the company that would become the New York City BalletNew York City Ballet
(NYCB), one of the foremost American dance companies of the 20th and 21st cents. It was founded by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine as the Ballet Society in 1946.
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, and in 1948 Balanchine was named its artistic director and principal choreographer.

Balanchine's more than 200 dance works include Prodigal Son (1929), Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Symphony in C (1947), Bourrée Fantasque (1949), Agon (1957), Seven Deadly Sins (1958), Don Quixote (1965), and Kammermusik No. 2 (1978). He choreographed for films, operas, and musicals as well, creating Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1968), his most famous theatrical piece, for the musical On Your Toes. As the major figure in mid-20th-century ballet, Balanchine established both a new Russian-American dance culture and the dynamic, inventive modern style of classical American ballet, while freeing ballet from the symmetrical and ornamental forms that had dominated since the 19th cent. Most of his works emphasize formalist patterns of pure movement rather than plot, stressing a spare and rigorous technique-based dance aesthetic. He never lost his creative instincts and continually experimented with new forms and movements, as seen in his controversial 1980 work, Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze. In 1987, after his death, two former associates founded the Balanchine Trust, an organization that maintains the integrity of his ballets by overseeing their leasing and staging.


See biographies by B Taper (rev. ed. 1984), R. Gottlieb (2004), and T. Teachout (2004); M. Ashley, Dancing for Balanchine (1984); F. Mason, ed., I Remember Balanchine (1991); R. Garis, Following Balanchine (1995); S. Schorer and R. Lee, Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique (1999); C. M. Joseph, Stravinsky and Balanchine (2002); N. Goldner, Balanchine Variations (2008).

George Balanchine
Georgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze
BirthplaceSt. Petersburg, Russian Empire
choreographer, actor, director

Balanchine, George


(pseudonym of Georgii Melitonovich Balanchivadze). Born Jan. 9 (22), 1904, in St. Petersburg. American choreographer, son of the composer M. A. Balanchivadze.

Balanchine studied at the theatrical school of the Mariinsky Theater in Petrograd from 1914 to 1921 and choreographed his first works in 1923. He has been living abroad since 1924. From 1925 to 1929 he was chief choreographer of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes company. In 1933 he organized the School of American Ballet in the USA, which later developed into the American Ballet troupe (since 1948, New York City Ballet). At first, Balanchine staged ballets with plots, as for example Prokofiev’s The Prodigal Son (1929) and Stravinsky’s Apollo, Ruler of the Muses (1929). Later, he staged plotless ballets, which include Concerto Barocco, based on the music of Bach (1941), and Ballet Imperial, based on the music of Tchaikovsky (1941).


Kögler, H. Balanchine und das moderne Ballet. Hannover, 1964.


Balanchine, George (b. Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze)

(1903–83) ballet dancer, choreographer; born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Trained at the School of Imperial Ballet/State Academy of Dance, he choreographed his first piece in 1922. From 1923–24 he was balletmaster at Petrograd's experimental Maly Theatre. While on a European tour with the Soviet State Dancers in 1924, he defected to the West. His choreography for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, created between 1925–29, included the masterworks, Apollo and Prodigal Son. Before immigrating to America in 1933, Balanchine created several ballets for European companies and for his own company, Les Ballets. In 1934, with Lincoln Kirstein, he formed the School of American Ballet, and in 1935, the American Ballet Company, which staged his first American work, Serenade, the same year. After the company's financial failure in 1938, Balanchine did the choreography for a number of films and Broadway shows, including Cabin in the Sky (1940) and Song of Norway (1944), until Kirstein established the Ballet Society in 1946. Soon after the 1948 premiere of Orpheus, one of Balanchine's finest works, the company was renamed the New York City Ballet and given a permanent home at New York's City Center. Balanchine, often working with limited funding, revolutionized classical ballet by creating stark, abstract, usually plotless ballets; drawing on serious music, often Stravinsky's, his ballets emphasized "pure" dance and ensemble work. By 1964, when the company moved to Lincoln Center, his reputation was at its peak. In later years he created elaborate "story" ballets such as Don Quixote, Coppelia, and the perennial favorite, The Nutcracker, demonstrating the remarkable range of his talents. Known for his incredible series of "Balanchine ballerinas," he also created some of his most memorable roles for men. Long before he died, his over 200 works had gained him the reputation as the premier choreographer of the 20th century.