George Balanchine (full name: Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze) was born the 22 January 1904 in St. Peterburg where he studied classical dance at the Imperial Ballet School as well as music at the conservatory.
Still a ballet student he created his first choreography: the pas de deux La Nuit (music: Anton Rubinstein). After his graduation in 1921 he was engaged for the corps de ballet at the State Academic Theatre for Opera and Ballet. While he was touring through Western Europe with three singers and three dancers in 1924, he met Sergej Diaghilew in Paris, who hired him to dance with his legendary Ballets Russes. Only one year later, Balanchine was promoted to chef choreographer of the company. For the production of Le Chant du Rossignol he worked together with Igor Stravinsky for the first time, who became a lifelong friend both at work and in private life. In 1928, by choreographing to Stravinsky’s ballet music Apollon Musagète, Balanchine became an icon of the dancelike and musical neoclassic. Several pieces for the Ballets Russes followed, such as Barabau (1925) and LeBal (1929) with music from Vittorio Rieti and Le fils prodigue (1929) with music from Sergej Prokofjev. After Diaghilew died in 1929, Balanchine created different choreographic works for European companies until he was engaged as director of the School of American Ballet in 1934 by the rich, American ballet enthusiast Lincoln Kirstein. For his first American ballet company, which was affiliated to the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1935 to 1938, he choreographed Serenade (1934), Le Baiser de la Fee (1937) and Jeux de cartes (1937). Additionally, he created the pieces Ballet Imperial and Concerto Barocco (1941) for a South America tour of the American Ballet Caravan. Along with Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine founded a new ballet company in 1946 – the Ballet Society – for which he choreographed nine ballets including The Four Temperaments (1946) and Orpheus (1948). In 1947 he created the ballet Le Palais Cristal for the Paris Opera Ballet, which was later renamed Symphony in C. It was in 1948 that Balanchine founded the New York City Ballet, which he directed until his death. He created numerous pieces for the New York City Ballet, amongst others Firebird (1949), La Valse (1951), Scotch Symphony (1952), The Nutcracker (1954), Western Symphony (1954), Divertimento No. 15 (1956), Square Dance (1957), Agon (1957), Episodes (1959, in collaboration with Martha Graham), Monumentum pro Gesualdo (1960), Raymonda Variations (1961), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1962), Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1963), Don Quixote (1965), Jewels (1967), La Source (1968), Who Cares? (1970), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Coppelia (1974, with Alexandra Danilova), Le Tombeau de Couperin (1975), Chaconne (1976), Union Jack (1976), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), Kammermusik No. 2 (1978), Ballade (1980), Robert Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze (1980), Mozartiana (1981) and Elegie (1982). He created his last work, Variations for Orchestra (1982), on the occasion of the second Stravinsky-Festival in New York honoring the 100th birthday of the composer. George Balanchine died in New York on April 30, 1983.
(Status: September 2018)