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George Balanchine (1904-1983), choreographer


(Compiled September 2003)

Chronological List Of Works Of Balanchine

Balanchine (Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze) was born in St. Petersburg (Jan 22, 1904) into a very musical family and began studying the piano at age 5. He received a classical education, acting and dance training, beginning at age 9, from the Imperial Theater School in St. Petersburg. It was originally thought that young Georgi would become one of the Tsar's cadets, so it was with the thought that if things didn't work out at the ballet school he could always join the army. In fact, in his first year he was not at all thrilled by what he was learning. It was only once he got to perform in the Maryinsky Theater in such spectacles as The Sleeping Beauty (his favorite) that Balanchine became enamored of the theater.

Balanchine was raised on the dance traditions of the classical Russian ballet established by Petipa. Despite having all the best teachers and dancers in the world at the time Balanchine states that "Contrary to popular belief, ballet was not taken very seriously by the Russian public. It was an entertainment almost exclusively for the aristocracy, among whom there were perhaps only a few gentlemen who were not primarily interested in what the ballerinas were doing after the performance." This changed with the revolution. Ballet was banned for a period until the Minister of Education, Lunacharsky, a balletomane, persuaded the authorities to gradually reinstate ballet.

At some point between 1919 and 1921, while continuing to dance, Balanchine enrolled in the Petrograd (Leningrad) Conservatory of Music. There he studied piano and music theory, including composition, harmony, and counterpoint, for three years, and he began to compose music. (In the upheaval of the Russian Revolution, when money was worthless, he sometimes played the piano in cabarets and silent movie houses in exchange for bread.) He became a skilled conductor and pianist and often played for graduating student performances at the Imperial Russian Ballet School.

He graduated from the Imperial Theater School with honors in 1921 at age 17 and joined the corps de ballet of the Maryinsky, by then renamed the State Theater of Opera and Ballet, and now the Kirov Ballet.

Balanchine began to choreograph while still in his teens, creating his first work in 1920 or earlier. It was a pas de deux called La Nuit, for himself and a female student, to the music of Anton Rubinstein. Another of his early duets, Enigma, danced in bare feet, was performed once at a benefit on the stage of the State Theater, as well as for some years thereafter, in both Petrograd and in the West. In 1923 he was able to form a small troupe, the Young Ballet, for which he composed several works in an experimental vein, but the authorities disapproved, and the performers were threatened with dismissal if they continued to participate. However, in the summer of 1924, Balanchine and three other dancers were permitted to leave the newly formed Soviet Union for a tour of "Soviet State Dancers" in Western Europe. They did not return. With Balanchine were Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova, and Nicholas Efimov, all of whom later became well known in the West. Seen performing in London, the dancers were invited by the impresario Serge Diaghilev to audition for his renowned Ballets Russes and were taken into the company.

It was when Balanchine began to work with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes that he became exposed to a stimulating array of choreographers, composers and artists such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Satie, Ravel, Picasso, Cocteau and Chagall. With the departure of Bronislava Nijinska from the Ballets Russes in 1925, Diaghilev made Balanchine, at age 21, ballet master (principal choreographer) for his company. Balanchine's first substantive effort was Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (1925), the first of four treatments he would make of this score over the years. Next was a reworking of Stravinsky's Le Chant du Rossignol, in which 14-year-old Alicia Markova made her stage debut. From that time until Diaghilev's death in 1929, Balanchine created nine more ballets, including Apollon Musagète (1928) and Prodigal Son (1929).

Balanchine was making a movie with former Diaghilev ballerina Lydia Lopokova (the wife of British economist John Maynard Keynes) when he heard of Diaghilev's death. With the subsequent collapse of the Ballets Russes, Balanchine began staging dances for Britain's popular Cochran Revues; acted as guest ballet master for the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen; and was engaged by its founder René Blum as ballet master for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, for which he choreographed three ballets around the talents of the young Tamara Toumanova - Cotillon, La Concurrence, and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Leaving the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, Balanchine formed Les Ballets 1933, with Boris Kochno (Diaghilev's last private secretary) as artistic advisor and the backing of British socialite Edward James. For the company's first-and only-season, he created six new ballets, including The Seven Deadly Sins in collaboration with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. It was during Les Ballets 1933 London engagement that, through Romola Nijinsky, Balanchine met the young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein.

Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996, raised in Boston and a graduate of Harvard University), harbored a dream: To establish a ballet company in America, filled with American dancers and not dependent on repertory from Europe. This he outlined to Balanchine and how he thought he was essential to it. Deciding quickly in favor of a new start, Balanchine agreed to come to the United States and arrived in New York in October 1933. "But first, a school," he is famously reported to have said.

Kirstein was prepared to support the idea, and the first product of their collaboration was a school, the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934 with the assistance of Edward M.M. Warburg, a Harvard colleague. (The first classes were held January 2.) The School remains in operation to this day. The first ballet Balanchine choreographed in America--Serenade, to Tchaikovsky--was created for students of the School and had its world premiere outdoors at Warburg's summer home near White Plains, New York, in 1934. Within a year, Balanchine and Kirstein had created a professional company, the American Ballet, which made its debut at the Adelphi Theater, New York City, in March 1935. After a handful of summer performances, a projected tour collapsed, but the troupe remained together as the resident ballet company at the Metropolitan Opera. However, the Met had little interest in furthering the cause of ballet, and in the American Ballet's three years at the Met, Balanchine was allowed just two all-dance programs. In 1936, he mounted a dance-drama version of Gluck's Orfeo and Eurydice, controversial in that the singers were relegated to the pit while the dancers claimed the stage. The second program, in 1937, was, prophetically, devoted to Stravinsky: a revival of Apollo plus two new works, Le Baiser de la Fée and Card Game. It was the first of three festivals Balanchine devoted to Stravinsky over the years.

Stravinsky's description of their work together on Balustrade in 1940 is implicitly a description of their shared vision. He wrote, "Balanchine composed the choreography as he listened to my recording, and I could actually observe him conceiving gestures, movement, combinations, and composition. The result was a series of dialogues perfectly complementary to and coordinated with the dialogues of the music." (In 1972, Balanchine choreographed a new ballet to the same score, Stravinsky Violin Concerto.)

The American Ballet's association with the Met came to an end in 1938 and Balanchine took several of his dancers to Hollywood. In 1941, he and Kirstein assembled another classical company, American Ballet Caravan, for a five-month good-will tour of South America. In the repertory were two major new Balanchine works, Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial (later renamed Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2). But after the tour this company, too, disbanded, and the dancers were forced to find work elsewhere. Between 1944 and 1946 Balanchine was engaged to revitalize Sergei Denham's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo after the departure of Massine. There he choreographed Raymonda, and Night Shadow (later called La Sonnambula, both in 1946), while reviving Concerto Barocco, Le Baiser de la Fée, Serenade, Ballet Imperial, and Jeu de Cartes. Ballets Russes toured the length and breadth of the country for nine months of the year.

In 1946 Balanchine and Kirstein formed Ballet Society, presenting to small New York subscription-only audiences such new Balanchine works as The Four Temperaments (1946) and Orpheus (1948). On the strength of Orpheus, praised as one of New York's premiere cultural events of the year, Morton Baum, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the New York City Center of Music and Drama, invited the company to join City Center (of which the New York City Drama Company and the New York City Opera were already a part). With the performance of October 11, 1948, consisting of Concerto Barocco, Orpheus, and Symphony in C (created for the Paris Opera Ballet as Le Palais de Cristal the previous year), the New York City Ballet was born.

From that time until his death in 1983, Balanchine served as ballet master for the New York City Ballet, choreographing the majority of the Company's productions. Among his notable ballets were Firebird and Bourrée Fantasque (1949; Firebird restaged with Jerome Robbins in 1970); La Valse (1951); Scotch Symphony (1952); The Nutcracker (his first full-length work for the company), Western Symphony, (1954); Allegro Brillante (1956); Agon (1957); Stars and Stripes and The Seven Deadly Sins (1958); Episodes (1959, choreographed with Martha Graham); Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Liebeslieder Walzer (1960); A Midsummer Night's Dream (1962); Don Quixote (in three acts,1965); Jewels (called the first full-length plotless ballet,1967); and Who Cares? (1970); Union Jack (1976, observing the U.S. Bicentennial by honoring Great Britain); Vienna Waltzes (1977); Ballo della Regina (1978); and Mozartiana (1981).

In America Balanchine was stimulated by new dance forms and alloyed them to his broad experiences. The founding of the School of American Ballet in 1934 and the New York City Ballet in 1948 gave Balanchine the forums to institutionalize and present new dance techniques and ideas to the world.

Balanchine also worked in musical theater and movies. On Broadway, he created dances for Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and On Your Toes, including the groundbreaking "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet (1936); Babes in Arms (1937); I Married an Angel and The Boys from Syracuse (1938); Louisiana Purchase and Cabin in the Sky, co-choreographed with Katherine Dunham (1940); The Merry Widow (1943); and Where's Charley? (1948), among others. His movie credits include The Goldwyn Follies, with its famous "water nymph" ballet (1938); I Was an Adventuress (1940); and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). All starred Vera Zorina.

Embracing television, Balanchine staged many of his ballets (or excerpts) and created new work especially for the medium: in 1962, he collaborated with Stravinsky on Noah and the Flood and in 1981 redesigned his 1975 staging of L'Enfant et les Sortilèges to include a wide range of special effects, including animation.

Balanchine was married to four of his ballerinas, Tamara Geva, Vera Zorina (1938-46), Maria Tallchief (1946-52) and Tanaquil LeClerc (1952-69).

In 1970, U.S. News and World Report attempted to summarize Balanchine's achievements: "The greatest choreographer of our time, George Balanchine is responsible for the successful fusion of modern concepts with older ideas of classical ballet. Balanchine received his training in Russia before coming to America in 1933. Here, the free-flowing U.S. dance forms stimulated him to develop new techniques in dance design and presentation, which have altered the thinking of the world of dance.

Often working with modern music and the simplest of themes, he has created ballets that are celebrated for their imagination and originality. His company, the New York City Ballet, is the leading dance group of the United States and one of the great companies of the world. An essential part of the success of Balanchine's group has been the training of his dancers, which he has supervised since the founding of his School of American Ballet in 1934. Balanchine chose to shape talent locally, and he has said that the basic structure of the American dancer was responsible for inspiring some of the striking lines of his compositions. Balanchine is not only gifted in creating entirely new productions, . . . his choreography for classical works has been equally fresh and inventive. He has made American dance the most advanced and richest in choreographic development in the world today."

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. . . . The important thing in ballet is the movement itself. A ballet may contain a story, but the visual spectacle . . . is the essential element. The choreographer and the dancer must remember that they reach the audience through the eye. It's the illusion created which convinces the audience, much as it is with the work of a magician." Balanchine always preferred to call himself a craftsman rather than a creator, comparing himself to a cook or cabinetmaker (both hobbies of his), and he had a reputation throughout the dance world for the calm and collected way in which he worked with his dancers and colleagues.

In the spring of 1975, the Entertainment Hall of Fame in Hollywood inducted Balanchine as a member, in a nationally televised special by Gene Kelly. The first choreographer so honored. The same year, he received the French Légion d'Honneur. In 1978, he was one of five recipients of the first Kennedy Center Honors, presented by President Jimmy Carter. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark also presented him with a Knighthood of the Order of Dannebrog, First Class. In 1980, the National Society of Arts and Letters honored Balanchine with their Gold Medal award, the Austrian government with its Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Letters, First Class, and by the New York Chapter of the American Heart Association with their "Heart of New York" award. The last major award Balanchine received--in absentia--was the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983, the highest honor that can be conferred on a civilian in the United States. At the time, President Ronald Reagan praised Balanchine's genius, saying that he has "inspired millions with his stage choreography . . . and amazed a diverse population through his talents".

Soon after, on April 30, 1983, George Balanchine died in New York at the age of 79.

The Washington Post claims: "[Balanchine] is to ballet what Tiger Woods is to golf: so far above the competition as to be playing a different game."

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Chronological List Of Works Of Balanchine

1920

La Nuit, Schön Rosmarin

1921

Poème

1922

Waltz, Waltz and Adagio, Romanza, Waltz, Valse Triste, Matelotte, Orientalia, Hungarian Gypsy Dance.

1923

Valse Caprice, Columbine’s Veil, La Mort du Cygne, Adagio, Spanish Dance, Marche Funèbre, Waltz, Extase, Pas de deux, Polka, Le Coq d’Or, Enigma, Ceasar and Cleopatra, Eugene the Unfortunate, Chorus Reading, Étude, Oriental Dance, Elegy

1924

Pas de Deux,Invitation to the Dance, Le Boeuf sur le Toit and Pulcinella

1925

Pizzicato Polka, Valse Caprice, Carmen, Thaïs, Manon, Le Hulla, Le Démon, Hopac, Fay-Yen-fah, Faust, Hérodiade, Un Début, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, La Damnation de Faust, Étude, Polka Mélancholique, Le Chant du Rossignol, Barbau

1926

Boris Godunov, Judith, L’Hirondelle, Lakmé,Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Jeanne d’Arc, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, La Pastorale, Jack in the Box, The Triumph of Neptune

1927

Aurora’s Wedding: Ariadne and Her Brothers, Samson et Dalila, La Traviata, Turandot, La Damnation de Faust, Ivan le Terrible, Obéron, La Chatte, Grotesque Espagnol, Sarcasm, Swan Lake

1928

Mireille, Les Maitres Chanteurs, Venise, Sioir Todéro Brontolon, Un Bal Masqué, Don Juan, La Fille d’Abdoubarahah, Aleko, Apollon Musagète, The Gods Go A-Begging

1929

Roméo et Juliette, La Gioconda, Rigoletto, La Femme Nue, Martha, Wake Up and Dream!, La Croisade des Dames, Le Bal, Le Fils Prodigue, Pas de Deux (Moods), Les Créatures de Prométhée, Dark Red Roses

1930

Aubade, Charles B. Cochran’s 1930 Revue, Den Trekantede Hat, Schéhérazade, Lagetøjsbutiken (La Boutique Fantsque), Fyrst Igor (Prince Igor), Rosendrømmen.

1931

Josef-Legende, Dances for Sir Oswald Stoll’s Variety Shows, Charles B. Cochran’s 1931 Revue,Orphée aux Enfers

1932

Les Amours du Poéte, Tannhäuser, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Le Prophète, Une Nuit á Venise, Lakmé, Samson et Dalila, Faust, Patrie, Hérodiade, Turandot, Rigoletto, Manon, La Traviata, Roméo et Juliette, Fay-Yen-Fah, Aïda, Carmen, La Périchole, Cotillon, La Concurrence, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Suites de Danse, Numéro les Canotiers

1933

Mozartiana, Les Songes, Les Sept Péchés Capitaux, Fastes, L’Errante, Les Valses de Beethoven, Dans l’Elysée

1934

Serenade

1935

Alma Mater, Errante, Reminiscence, Dreams, Transcendence, Jeanne d’Arc, Mozartiana, La Traviata, Faust, Aïda, Lakmé, Tannhäuser, Carmen, Rigoletto

1936

Mignon, Manon, La Juive, La Rondine, Ziegfeld Follies: 1936 Edition, Die Mastersingers von Nüremberg, Serenata: ‘Magic’, Concerto, On Your Toes, The Bartered Bride, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Bat, Orpheus and Eurydice, Samson et Dalila

1937

Le Coq d’Or, Caponsacchi, La Gioconda, Babes in Arms, Apollon Musagete, The Card Party, Le Baiser de la Fée, Mârouf, Roméo et Juliette

1938

Don Giovanni, I married and Angel, The Boys from Syracuse, The Great Lady, Goldwyn Follies

1939

On Your Toes

1940

Keep Off the Grass, Louisiana Purchase, Pas de deux-Blues, Cabin in the Sky, I Was an Adventuress

1941

Balustrade, Serenate, Ballet Imperial, Concerto Barocco, Divertimento, Alma Errante, Apolo Musageta, El Murciélago, Fantasia Brasiliera

1942

The Lady Comes Across, The Ballet of the Elephants, Pas de Trois for Piano and Two Dancers, Maruf, Concierto de Mozart, Rosalinda, The Opera Cloak, The Fair as Sorochinsk, La Vie Parisienne, The Queen of Spades, Macbeth, Star Spangled Rhythm

1943

Helen of Troy, The Crucifiction of Christ, The Merry Widow, What’s Up

1944

Dream with Music, Song of Norway, Danses Concertantes, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Waltz Academy, Sentimental Colloquy

1945

The Tempest, Aïda, Fausto, Sansón y Dalila, Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston, Circus Polka

1946

Resurgence, The Night Shadow, Raymonda, Giselle: Act II Grave Scene, The Spellbound Child, The Four Tempraments

1947

Renard, Divertimento, The Chocolate Soldier, Le Palais de Cristal, Symphonie Concertante, Theme and Variations

1948

The Triumph of Bacchus, Symphony in C., Élégie, Orpheus, Pas de Trois Classique, Carmen, Where’s Charley?, Concerto Barocco, The Marriage of Figaro, La Traviatta, Don Giovanni, Serenade, Aïda, Eugen Onegin, The Madwoman of Chaillot

1949

Troubled Island, Princess Aurora, The Tales of Hoffmann, Cinderella, Don Quixote pas de deux, Swan Lake pas de duex, La Mort du Cygne, Firebird, Bourée Fantasque

1950

Prodigal Son, Pas de Deux Romantique, Jones Beach, Trumpet Concerto, The Fairy’s Kiss, Mazurka from ‘A Life for the Tsar’, Sylvia pas de deux

1951

Music and Dance, The Card Game, Pas de Trois, La Valse, Romeo and Juliet, Capriccio Brillant, Courtin’ Time, The Sleeping Beauty (Variation), À la Francaix, Tyl Ulenspiegel, Apollo, Leader of the Muses, Swan Lake

1952

Caracole, Boyou, Scotch Symphony, Metamorphoses, Harliquinade pas de deux, One, Yuletide Square, Concertino

1953

Valse Fantasie, The Countess Becomes the Maid, The Rake’s Progress, La Favorita, Boris Godunov, Adriana Lecouvreur, Amahl and the Night Visitors

1954

Opus 34, The Nutcracker, Western Symphony, Ivesiana, House of Flowers

1955

Roma, Pas de Trois, The Tempest, Pas de Dix, Jeux d’Enfants

1956

The Magic Flute, Allegro Brillante, A Musical Joke, Divertimento No. 15

1957

Square Dance, Agon

1958

Gounod Symphony, Stars and Stripes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, Waltz-Scherzo, The Seven Deadly Sins

1959

Native Dancers, Episodes, Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Warrior

1960

Night Shadow, Panamerica, Theme and Variations, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, The Figure in the Carpet, Donizetti Variations (Variations from Don Sebastian), Momentum pro Gesualdo, Liebeslieder Walzer, Ragtime

1961

Modern Jazz: Varients, Electronics, Raymonda Variations (Valses et Variations)

1962

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Eugene Onegin, Noah and the Flood

1963

Bugaku, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, Orpheus und Eurydice, Meditation

1964

Tarantella, Clarinade, Ballet Imperial

1965

Harliquinade, Don Quixote

1966

Variations, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Élégie, Ragtime(II)

1967

Trois Valses Romantiques, Jewels, Glinkiana

1968

Metastaseis & Pithoprakta, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Requiem Canticles, Diana and Actaeon pas de deux, La Source

1969

Ruslan und Ludmilla, Valse Fantasie, Le Lac des Cygnes

1970

Who Cares?, Suite No. 3

1971

Concerto for Jazz Band and Orchestra, PAMTGG

1972

Sonata, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Danses Concertantes, Divertimento from ‘Le Baiser de las Fée, Scherzo á la Russe, Duo Concertant, Pulcinella, Choral Variations on Bach’s ‘Von Himmel Hoch", Symphony of Psalms

1973

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, Prince Igor,Cortège Hongrois, Begin the Beguine

1974

Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir, Coppélia, Boris Godunov

1975

Sonatine, L’Enfant et les Sortileges, Shéhérazade, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Pavane, Tzigane, Gaspard de las Nuit, Rapsodie Espagnole, Faust, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Orfeo et Euridice

1976

Chaconne, Union Jack, Pal Joey, The Reluctant King

1977

The Sleeping Beauty, Étude for Piano, Vienna Waltzes

1978

Ballo della Regina, Kammermusik No. 2, Tricolore

1979

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Dido and Aneas

1980

Ballade, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Robert Schumann’s ‘Davidsbündlertänze’

1981

The Spellbound Child, Mozartiana, Tempo di Valse; from Sleeping Beauty, Hungarian Gypsy Airs, Symphony No. 6 - Pathétique: Fourth Movement, Adagio, Lamentoso

1982

Tango, Noah and the Flood, Élégie, Perséphone, Variations for Orchestra.

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