George Balanchine left his marks upon the development of theatrical dance. He is the maestro of storyless musical ballet. His ballets mostly stand out because of their architectonical composition of choreographic patterns and dance themes.
When nine years of age, Balanchine was enrolled at the Imperial Ballet School – now known as the Vaganova Ballet Academy – where he graduated with honours in 1921. He was educated according to the traditional principles and style of choreographer Marius Petipa.
Balanchine already made his first choreography, La Nuit, before graduation. After graduation he joined the corps de ballet of the Mariinsky Ballet. Three years later, Balanchine and several fellow dancers got permission to leave the Soviet Union for a tour through Europe. Balanchine never returned.
Instead, Serge Diaghilev saw his potential and engaged Balanchine as a ballet master at his Les Ballet Russes. Diaghilev also gave Balanchine the opportunity to work with composer Igor Stravinsky, a collaboration that lasted until Stravinsky’s death in 1971.
In the following years, Balanchine worked all over Europe before being invited to the United States by Lincoln Kirstein in 1933. The year 1934 marks the foundation of Kirstein’s and Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, which still exists today.
Balanchine also engages himself with making choreographies for films, operas, revues and musicals. His choreography Slaughter on Tenth Avenue for the Broadway show On Your Toes (1936) ultimately was adapted into film. It was not until 1948 that the New York City Ballet came into existence; Balanchine was the artistic director and ballet master of the company until his death in 1983.
Balanchine has created over 400 choreographies in his career. His technique is a mix of classic-romantic and Broadway, resulting in his revolutionary neo-classical style.