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Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 22 January 1904St. Petersburg, Russia
Date of Death 30 April 1983New York City, New York, USA  (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease)
Birth NameGeorgy Melitonovich Balanchivadze
Nickname Mr. B

Mini Bio (1)

George Balanchine was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer with the "Ballets Russes" under Sergei Diaghilev, and became one of the foremost choreographers of the 20th century. He co-founded the School of American Ballet, and started the tradition of seasonal performances of "The Nutcracker" since 1954.

He was born Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze on January 22, 1904, into a family of Russian-Georgian heritage, in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father, Meliton Balanchivadze, was a noted Georgian composer. 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, Balanchine graduated as a classic ballet dancer. He also studied piano and composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. From 1921-1924 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. 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. That job made Balanchine famous. From 1924-1929 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 the death of Diaghilev, Balanchine had a few uncertain years. He played a cameo role as a dancer in Dark Red Roses (1930) 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 1930-1933, he choreographed three ballets for "Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo", starring Tamara Toumanova. At that time Balanchine also 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 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).

For the Christmas of 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 Lincoln Kirstein, who served as the general director of Balanchine's ballet company from 1933-1989. 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 (1952 - 1969) (divorced)
Maria Tallchief (1946 - 1952) (divorced)
Vera Zorina (December 1938 - 1946) (divorced)
Tamara Geva (1921 - 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.
Perhaps the most famous and celebrated ballet choreographer of the twentieth century.
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.
Choreographed more than 80 works with his NYCB company.
Co-founder of the New York City Ballet and The School of American Ballet.
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, who later played the Scarecrow in the 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, even though it kept the ballet music.
Was the choreographer primarily responsible for making ballet more modern.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 32-35. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.

Personal Quotes (2)

"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?

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