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George Balanchine Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (4)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (10)  | Personal Quotes (8)

Overview (4)

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease)
Birth NameGeorgy Melitonovich Balanchivadze
Nicknames Mr. B
Rat

Mini Bio (1)

George Balanchine was a Georgian-American ballet dancer and one of the foremost choreographers of the 20th century. Regarded as the founder of American ballet, he established and led the New York City Ballet for more than three decades.

Balanchine was born Georgy Melitonovich Balanchivadze, the son of Meliton Balanchivadze, a noted Georgian composer who later became the Culture Minister of the first Georgian Democratic Republic. Young Balanchine studied piano with his father from the age of 5. In 1913, he was admitted in the ballet class of the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg. In 1914, he made his stage debut with the Mariinsky Imperial Ballet as Cupid in "The Sleeping Beauty" ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. In 1921, he graduated as a classic ballet dancer. He also studied piano and composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. From 1921-24, he was a dancer with the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Petrograd (St. Petersburg).

In 1924, he emigrated from Russia together with his first wife, ballerina Tamara Geva, whom he wed in 1923. That same year auditioned for and was hired as a dancer by impresario Sergei Diaghilev for his "Russian Ballet". A knee injury forced him to quit dancing, and Diaghilev employed him as a choreographer. From 1924-29 he created nine major ballets as well as choreographing smaller productions. He choreographed such ballets as "L'Enfant et les Sortileges" by Maurice Ravel, "Apollon Musagete" and "Le Chant du Rossignol" by Igor Stravinsky, in which he introduced then 14-year-old Alicia Markova.

After Diaghilev's death, Balanchine had a few uncertain years. He played a cameo role as a dancer in Dark Red Roses (1929) with Lydia Lopokova, a former Diaghilev ballerina. After a brief stint with the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Balanchine moved to Monte Carlo. There, from 1930-33, he choreographed three ballets for "Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo", starring Tamara Toumanova. At that time he collaborated with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil. In 1933, he formed "Les Ballets" with Boris Kochno, Diaghilev's last private secretary, and made performances in London. There he was met the young American impresario Lincoln Kirstein, who invited him to start a ballet company in New York. Balanchine said, "Yes. But first, a school", and came to New York at the end of 1933. There he co-founded the School of American Ballet, which opened its doors on January 2, 1934.

In 1935, he co-founded the American Ballet, which became the resident company of the Metropolitan Opera for a few years until their separation from the Opera in 1938. Balanchine took his dancers to Hollywood. There he promoted his second wife, Vera Zorina, to several leading roles and worked as ballet choreographer in The Goldwyn Follies (1938), On Your Toes (1939), We Are Not Alone (1939), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) and Follow the Boys (1944). In 1946, Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein founded the Ballet Society, renamed the "New York City Ballet" in 1948. It became the most innovative ballet company in the world. He choreographed the five-part series Great Performances: Dance in America (1976) for PBS and the film The Turning Point (1977).

In Christmas 1954, Balanchine staged "The Nutcracker" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and started the tradition of seasonal performances of this classic ballet. His choreography was re-created for the 1993 film version of the production, The Nutcracker (1993). Balanchine and New York City Ballet made a home in the New York State Theater building at Lincoln Center, designed by Philip Johnson, in 1964. The new home for Balanchine's ballet was commissioned and funded with the help of Kirstein, who served as the general director of Balanchine's ballet company from 1933-89. Their work was documented from 1933-55 by photographer George Platt Lynes. Their friends and collaborators were Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, Pavel Tchelitchev, Cecil Beaton, Alexandra Danilova and many others.

Balanchine was married four times, all to ballerinas; he also had common-law relationships, but remained childless. He died in New York on April 30, 1983, and was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery, Sag Harbor, New York.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (4)

Tanaquil Le Clerq (31 December 1952 - 14 February 1969) ( divorced)
Maria Tallchief (16 August 1946 - 7 June 1951) ( annulled)
Vera Zorina (24 December 1938 - 17 January 1946) ( divorced)
Tamara Geva (24 October 1923 - 1926) ( divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Lighter costumes, faster movements, plotless ballet pieces. His dancers moved brilliantly.

Trivia (10)

Son of Georgian composer Meliton Balanchivadze. Brother of Georgian composer Andrei Balanchivadze.
His 1954 staging of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" is probably his most famous work. It is the version most responsible for making the complete ballet an annual Christmas tradition throughout the United States. It has been performed in New York City annually since 1954,and still continues its run there - and in 1965, Atlanta, Ga. was one of the first cities outside New York to be granted the rights to perform the Balanchine version. It has also been filmed.
Had unrequited romantic intentions with close friend and artistic muse Suzanne Farrell, prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet, even while he was still married. Balanchine received a Mexican divorce from his wife in order to marry Farrell, but returned to New York and found she had already married boyfriend and fellow New York City Ballet dancer Paul Mejia. Heartbroken, he kicked Mejia out of the company and when Farrell attempted to stand up for her husband she was also exiled. Farrell eventually reconciled with Balanchine and rejoined the company several years later. Balanchine never married again.
Quit dancing in his prime to choreograph.
The co-founder of the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, he choreographed more than 80 works with his NYCB company.
Two of his wives played the same role in different productions of Rodgers and Hart's musical "On Your Toes", and both danced the ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" in it. Tamara Geva appeared in the 1936 original Broadway production, in which her leading man was Ray Bolger, best known for playing "The Scarecrow" in the iconic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz (1939). Vera Zorina appeared in the 1939 film version of "On Your Toes", and her leading man was Eddie Albert, who later starred in the hit television series Green Acres (1965). The film version, however, dropped all the songs, although it kept the ballet music.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 32-35. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
He choreographed his very first work, a pas de deux called "La Nuit" for himself and a woman.
As a child, both he and his sister auditioned for the St. Petersburg's rigorous Imperial Theater School. His sister didn't make it, but he did. He was one of the few boys.
During the Russian Revolution, he played the piano in cabarets and silent movie houses for food and drink (when money was worthless).

Personal Quotes (8)

"Ballet is Woman. In sports, it's Mickey Mantle. In politics, it's Eisenhower. In ballet, it's woman. Women are lighter, more flexible. They move more beautifully. He is not the King, but she's the Queen".
Retire? You mean will I die?
(To some lackluster dancers in his studio): "Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for-for another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now".
I don't want people who want to dance; I want people who have to dance.
First comes the sweat. Then comes the beauty if you're very lucky and have said your prayers.
Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policeman, always alert, always tense. But i don't agree with that because policeman don't have to look beautiful at the same time.
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.
[advice to dancer Edward Villella, who wanted to recreate Balanchine own work 'The Prodigal'] Oh no, dear, awful ballet. Lousy, rotten. No good. I hate it. Old-fashioned. Terrible ballet. Don't do it. Do something else.

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