George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco ©The George Balanchine Trust.
Photo credit: Rosalie O'Connor
George Balanchine, “father of American ballet,” has been with Boston Ballet every (en pointe) step of the way. From birth to today, his mark is indelible.
Seo Hye Han and Patric Palkens in George Balanchine’s Coppélia. ©The George Balanchine Trust.Photo credit: Brooke Trisolini
Ji Young Chae, Lawrence Rines, and Irlan Silva in George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.2. © The George Balanchine Trust.Photo credit: Rachel Neville Photography
George Balanchine is perhaps best known for co-founding New York City Ballet. Invited to America in 1933 by young arts patron Lincoln Kirstein, the pair first established the School of American Ballet followed by the company, where Balanchine served as artistic director for more than 35 years. Ever prolific, Balanchine choreographed more than 450 ballets in his lifetime.
But what many don’t know is that Balanchine also had a special relationship with Boston Ballet founder, E. Virginia Williams. Thanks to his recommendation, her fledgling company got the grant that enabled it to become Boston Ballet, the first professional ballet company in New England.
George Balanchine was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904. At the age of nine, he was accepted into the Imperial Ballet School. After graduation, he danced with the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet Company, where he began choreographing short works in his teenage years. In 1924, while on a tour of Western Europe, he defected from the newly formed Soviet Union. Balanchine was invited by impresario Serge Diaghilev to join the Ballets Russes, an itinerant ballet company based in Paris, and it was here that he began choreographing some of his earliest important works: Apollo (1928) and Prodigal Son (1929). Ballet Russes promoted ground-breaking artistic collaborations among artists at the forefront of their respective fields. The young Balanchine worked with composers such as Sergei Prokofiev, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, and Erik Satie.
After Diaghilev’s death, the Ballets Russes disbanded in 1929. It was then that Balanchine met young American arts connoisseur Lincoln Kirsten who persuaded him to come to the U.S. Together they founded the School of American Ballet (SAB) in 1934 and Ballet Society in 1946, which was renamed New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1948 when it moved to New York City Center. His first ballet choreographed in the U.S. (and now one of his most well-known), SERENADE, to music by Tchaikovsky, was created for SAB students and premiered in 1934. Affectionately referred to as “Mr. B.,” Balanchine served as NYCB’s artistic director from 1948 until his death in 1983.
George Balanchine's Serenade ©The George Balanchine Trust
Photo credit: Marty Sohl