The peer in his field
PLOTLESS BALLET: A rare picture of Walpurgisnacht, coreograped by
Balanchine for the New York City Ballet and to the mine of Gounod’s
BALLET: Marius, Petipa, Leonid Lavravsky, John Cranko,
Vladimir Bonrnmeister, V. Chabukiani, Yuri Giigarovich, Maurice Bejart,
Fredrick Ashton, Peter Darrel, Martha Graham, Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev,
Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Kenneth MacMillan and Merce Cunnigham are some
of the great choreographers who have shaped ballet to what it is today
but there is one that rises above all of them.
An enigma was George Balanchine. Many of these choreographers came
under the influence of Balanchine during his lifetime and they owe a
great deal to his craft and aplomb in the art of choreographing
What made Balanchine outstanding? Firstly, he had the flair to make
his dancers attractive in movement and personality. Secondly, he had
unsurpassed musicality which was the base for his ballets.
He sustained these qualities over the years and gave his ensemble
homogeneity. He had developed his own genre and avoided long spectacular
ballet through a full evening but his development sprang logically from
It was his dream-prodigy, the New York City Ballet that turned the
trends for America in identifying their own dance on equal terms with
the West. He made ballet's future more brilliant by inviting Martha
Graham to undertake part of the choreography and as we all know, that
was the turning point in her stupendous career with the NYCB, Balanchine
produced exciting but austere dances in his own inverted-classical
In the process, he discovered another modern dancer who eventually
became a great choregraphers, Paul Taylor. Balanchine created a special
ballet for Taylor, Episades to the music of Webern. Episades is now in
the NYCB's repertory.
New York City Ballet is a testimony to its creator, Balanchine who
displayed the importance of one creative strong minded person's
capability that was strikingly responsible for one of the largest and
leading ballet company to remain remarkably unaffected down the years
while other companies suffered different fates.
This is New York City Ballet with autocratic power exercised by the
company's chief choreographer/artistic director, Balanchine. He made
ballet such a power of communication that stunned the world and react in
exhilaration to mesmerise even those who did not know what ballet was
nor seen or heard about it.
Balanchine was born in St. Petersburg on January 22, 1904 as Georgi
Meltonovich Balanchivadz. He was educated at the Russian Imperial School
of Ballet where he became a young choreographer.
Balanchine left Russia in 1924 and soon made a name and in 1933 was
invited to organise a school and company in American ballet which after
hard work and dedication, the New York City Ballet became a reality.
He went on to completely dominate ballet not only in America but as
well as in Western Europe. Presently he has over forty ballets in the
repertory of the New York City Ballet while many others danced around
the world in their own respective companies.
No other choreographer has ever had so many ballets performed so
widely and so often. Neither did any other choreographer reached his
position but Balanchine with his remarkable gifts was able to apply his
hand almost to any kind of ballet with great success.
However, he had little interest to tell a story through ballet. At
the beginning and in 1928, he created Apollo, one of his best loved
ballets. He highlighted the muscular strength of Apollo and made
movements simple but breath taking to the musical scores of Stravinsky.
The ballet had austere beauty that proved timeless with its strict
academic qualities. What was unique in Apollo was that it was remoulded
to suit the themes of different composers whose music was used by the
subsequent choreographers. Balanchine was very young when he created
Apollo but he kept mounting it over the years and admitted that he found
the perfect God, Apollo in Rudolf Nureyev, almost forty years later.
Balanchine always used the old virtuoso classical techniques either
in sheer brilliant dance display or mistily romantic mood. He used the
basis from 19th century classics of Glinka, and Drigo through to
Taichovosky. His other favourite composers were Glazunov, Delibas, Faure,
Brahms, and Ravel.
He even used some of the works of Mozart while Stravinsky remained
his firm favourite. On many an occasion, Stravinsky had influenced him
towards new ballets. They would relate to each other in the harmony of
their own genius that made the composer/choreographer immaculate. Some
of Balanchine's well-known ballets are; Apollo (Stravinsky), Ballet
Imperial (Tchaikovsky), Symphony in C (Bizet), Western Symphony (Hersley
Kay), Night Shadow (Vittorio Rietti), The Prodigal Son (Prokofiev), The
Four temperaments (Hindemith), Agon (Stravinsky), and Episoded (Webem).
Balanchine died on April, 30, 1983 in New York. He won many awards
including an honorary doctorate.