Magazine article Dance Magazine

George Balanchine Ballet Revolutionary

Magazine article Dance Magazine

George Balanchine Ballet Revolutionary

Article excerpt

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"My first time on the stage was in The Sleeping Beauty," George Balanchine remembered in the book Balanchine's Tchaikovsky: Interviews with George Balanchine. "I was Cupid, a tiny Cupid. It was Petipa's choreography. I was set down on a golden cage. I sat on it in indescribable ecstasy enjoying it all--he music, the theater and the fact that I was onstage. Thanks to Sleeping Beauty, I fell in love with ballet."

George Balanchine was born Georgi Balanchivadze in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1904. As a young student at the famous St. Petersburg Imperial Theater School, he performed in the big story ballets that were beloved by the Imperial Court. Young Georgi's passion led him to become the most important ballet choreographer of the 20th century.

Balanchine was only a teen when he began to make dances. "I taught this little ballet to eight boys in my class at school," he recalled. "They were very good dancers and to make them stretch and extend themselves the way I wanted, I had to show them how to do movements altogether new to them," Later, his professional dancers also worked very hard to be able to perform his freeing movement style.

When he was still a student, he fell in love with the first of his four ballerina wives, Tamara Geva. (The other three were Vera Zorina, Maria Tallchief and Tanaquil LeClercq.) In 1924, the couple left for Europe with a small group of dancers in tow. They worked for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, where Balanchine made Apollo, a ballet about the Greek god and his muses. Igor Stravinsky wrote the music, and the two became great friends, making many more ballets together. Their most revolutionary ballet was Agon, which was made in 1957. It is danced in practice clothes and combines classical steps with jazzy movement. One critic who saw it was so excited by its originality, she couldn't sleep that night. …

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