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Edward Villella (Albrecht), Anamarie Sarazin (Mythra) in Giselle
Photo credit: Alex Coste, circa 1968. Courtesy of The Harvard Archives, Houghton Library
The 1960’s saw the birth of Boston’s first professional ballet company.
Alexei Yudenich, Barbara Sandonato. Boston Ballet performance of Don Quixote at The Falmouth PlayhousePhotographer unknown, Aug 29, 1965.
Carol Ravich, Laura Young, Linda DiBona, Nina Pillar in Anton Dolin's Pas de Quatre,Photographer unknown, Jul 2, 1965. Image courtesy of Carol Ravich.
Between 1958 and 1962, The New England Civic Ballet toured regionally, performing repertory which included a 3 Act Nutcracker, Les Syphides, and repertory works by E. Virginia Williams, Sydney Leonard, Lev Ianov, Jean Paige and others. E. Virginia Williams’ dancers were joined by noted guest artists from various companies including American Ballet Theatre (Sara Leland, Fern Maclarnon), Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (Eleanor D’Antuono), Balanchine’s New York City Ballet (Melissa Hayden and Jacques D’Ambroise), and Joffrey Ballet (Paul Sutherland).
Aug 27, 1961: In the summer of 1961 The American Festival of the Arts premiered at The Metropolitan Boston Arts Center along the Charles River. Edward Villella and Patricia Wilde joined The New England Civic Ballet for a special one-day-only performance which included The Young Loves, and the “Pas de Dix” from Raymonda. The gala premiere season of the festival also included the US professional premiere of Benjamin Britton’s The Turn of The Screw, and a dance festival which brought companies and dance luminaries such as Merce Cunningham and Company, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo Concert Company, Jose Limon and Dance Company, Maria Tallchief, and Carmen de Lavallande.
Aug 14, 1962: Ted Shawn invited E. Virginia Williams’ New England Civic Ballet to perform as part of the 30th year of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. New England Civic Ballet loosely became a semi-professional company, “The Boston Ballet”, for the performances. Williams’ dancers were joined by guest artists Edward Villella and Patricia McBride of New York City Ballet. The Boston Ballet performed Spectre de la Rose, Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony, E. Virginia Williams’ The Young Loves and the world premiere of Williams’ Green Season. In reviewing the performance for Dance Magazine (October 1962) Doris Hering stated “The Boston Ballet dancers perform with a cohesiveness of style that one rarely encounters even in a seasoned professional company…there is no artifice. Instead there is an ease of communication between them and the audience.”
Dec 15, 1963: “A Ford Foundation grant of $144,000 to the Boston Ballet School has given birth to Boston’s first and only professional ballet company.” announced The Boston Globe on Monday, December 30,1963. The Ford Grant, which had been officially announced on December 15, was a historic $7,756,000, the largest private subsidy made to single art form at the time. In part, based on the recommendations of GEORGE BALANCHINE and McNeil Lowry, the grant provided for the formation of several professional ballet companies, including the Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and Washington Ballet. Balanchine was a strong supporter of this initiative, he would serve as Boston Ballet’s artistic advisor for several years and as a further gesture of support gave the new company several of his works.
Jun 29, 1964: Boston Ballet made its first professional engagement as The Boston Ballet on Monday, June 29, 1964 taking part in the Boston Arts Festival in the Boston Public Garden. The eight week festival included dance, drama, and poetry on the Festival’s lagoon-sited stage and featured American and European repertory companies. The Boston Ballet presented La Fille Mal Gardee, with choreography after Jean Dauberval, E. Virginia Williams Sea Alliance, John Taras’ Design with Strings, and George Balanchine’s © Donzetti Variations, Concerto Barocco, and the Pas de Deux from Stars and Stripes. The June 29th performance marked the first time The Boston Ballet presented La Fille Mal Gardee, a ballet which “enjoys the distinction of being the oldest ballet in current repertoires”
Boston Ballet in George Balanchine's Scotch Symphony © The George Balanchine Trust
Photographer unknown, circa 1965. Courtesy of The Harvard Archives, Houghton Library