the Ballet
the History


Thanks to Balanchine, ballet came to America. However, very little of America realized this, the popular misconception was that ballet came from Russia. To counter this Lincoln Kirstein published an essay called "Blast at Ballet" in which he tried to correct this misconception. While Kirstein and Balanchine were trying to come up with a stable ballet company, while still running their school, there were other companies in the works.

Richard Pleasant, (1906-1961), a ballet company manager, teamed up with Lucia Chase, (1897-1986), to form the Ballet Theatre. This company is still running today as one of the most prestigious companies on the continent, the American Ballet Theatre. Antony Tudor, an English dancer and choreographer came over and started working with the Ballet Theatre. Probably the most famous piece he choreographed was Fancy Free, about sailors in New York City. Balanchine also restaged several pieces for the Ballet Theatre.

In 1946 Balanchine and Kirstein formed the Ballet Society. Because the costumes for the premier performance were very constricting, they were discarded and the dancers danced in what could be called rehearsal costumes. This look became common in Balanchine's ballets and allowed for the audience to see the full dance. The Ballet Society caught the attention of the director of New York City's City Centre Theatre who invited the Ballet Society to work alongside the New York City Opera in the Theatre. This was the beginning of the New York City Ballet. With ballerina Maria Tallchief, (1925- ), and Jerome Robbins, who both came from the Ballet Theatre, the New York City Ballet, (NYCB), got underway with productions of Firebird, (1949), and Swan Lake, (1951). At this time the Ballet Theatre, (BT), was on shaky organizational ground and several of its dancers and Tudor came from the BT and signed with the NYCB.

When the BT, (known since 1956 as the American Ballet Theatre or ABT), became more stable again Tudor and some of the dancers returned to it, but some remained with the NYCB. From here the two companies went their different ways. The NYCB presented entirely new pieces or reconditioned old ones, where the ABT presented a balance of classics and contemporary ballets. The ABT also counted on big names like Eric Bruhn, (1928-1986), and Rudolf Nureyev to bring in audiences.

It should also be mentioned that George Balanchine is responsible for the "Balanchine body" image of ballet dancers as extremely slim. This image has led to many eating disorders in ballerinas and ballerina hopefuls. Balanchine's historical contribution to ballet in America was enormous, as was his influence, which continues. At this point we can leave "history" and go into the present with ballet firmly established in Europe and the Americas and starting to make great leaps and bounds in the rest of the world.

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