George Balanchine Choreographer

© Tanaquil LeClercq


Born in 1904 in St. Petersburg to Georgian parents, Georgi Balanchivadze was trained at the Imperial Ballet School, and joined the Imperial Dance Company Corps de Ballet eight years later, in 1921. He also studied piano at the St. Petersburg Music Conservatory. 

When he joined Diaghilev’s Russian Ballets, Balanchine met Stravinsky and opened his mind to modern arts. His first choreographies (Apollo, 1928) are a testimony of his desire to change ballet into an illustration of music, to “transform sound into movement”. In 1934, Lincoln Kirstein invited this “Russian-European” artist in America to found the School of American Ballet that would lead to the creation of the New York City Ballet, headed by Balanchine from 1948 to his death, in 1983. 

The Paris Opera always maintained close ties with Balanchine. As early as 1929, Jacques Rouché, manager of the Palais Garnier, invited him to stage a ballet. But Balanchine was ill and asked Serge Lifar to replace him. In 1947, the choreographer was asked to come and revive three of his ballets (Apollo, Serenade, and The Fairy’s Kiss); an occasion for which he also created Le Palais de Cristal

Balanchine became a regular guess, teaching his works when they entered the Paris Opera repertoire, such as in 1974 for a Stravinsky programme (Agon, Capriccio, Orpheus) and in 1975 for a Ravel Festival (La Valse, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Tzigane, Sonatine). 

Since then, many of his works entered the Institution’s repertoire, including Divertimento n° 15, Violin Concerto, Symphony in Three Movements, Themes and Variations, Allegro brillante, Jewels, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Brahms-Schonberg Quartet and Mozartiana.

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