George Balanchine

Topics: George Balanchine, New York City Ballet, Ballets Russes Pages: 7 (2274 words) Published: May 29, 2012
George Balanchine born at St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904 as Giorgi Balanchivadze to a Georgian father and a Russian mother who largely influenced the direction he took in life because they played a crucial role in helping him realize his passion for ballet. His father was a prominent Georgian composer, Meliton Balanchivadze who was one of the creators of the famous Georgian Opera whereas his mother was a Russian ballet professional.

In his childhood, George Balanchine had no interest in ballet, but his mother had a strong passion for the arts and made the young Giorgi audition with his sister, who had a passion for ballet. Based on that audition in 1913 at the tender age of nine, Balanchine got into the Imperial Ballet School, best school of the Imperial Ballet. He became a student of Pavel Gerdt and Samuil Andrianov. The school closed down, disbanded due to claims of being an elitist symbol of the Czarist regime after the Bolsheviks won the Russian Revolution of 1917. Balanchine made the debut of his own dancing at the early age of 10 as a cupid in the Maryinsky Theatre Ballet Company Production of The Sleeping Beauty.

Since George Balanchine had now grown accustomed to the musical scene, he played the piano at cabarets and silent movie theatres, not for money, but food, to survive the privation and martial law. Over time, the Imperial Ballet School reopened but with a great reduction of funding from the government. This, however, did not stop Balanchine from graduating with honors in 1921.

After graduating, he enrolled in the state’s Petrogad Conservatory while still working in the corps de ballet at the State Academic Theatre for Opera and ballet (formerly “The State Theatre of Opera And Ballet” and “Mariinsky Ballet). It is at the conservatory that Balanchine studied advanced piano, music theory, counterpoint, harmony and composition. The extensive training he acquired allowed Balanchine as a choreographer to associate with a composer of esteemed stature as Igor Stravinsky. It gave him the ability to minimize orchestral scores on the piano, an essential aid in translating music into dance. He graduated from the conservatory during 1923 and later danced as a member of the corps until 1924.

Balanchine was not one to sit with his acquired knowledge and leave it untapped. While still in his teens, he choreographed his initial work, pas de deux (which is French for “step of two”) named La Nuit (music by Anton Rubinstein, 1920). He did another duet, Enigma, with the dancers being bare footed instead of wearing ballet shoes. There was no stopping for Balanchine. In 1923, Balanchine formed a small ensemble, the Young Ballet. However, the choreography proved too experimental for the new authorities.

George Balanchine was, however, short of luck when it came to romance. In 1922, when he was only eighteen years old, he married a fellow dancer Tamara Geva who was only fifteen years. Their marriage, however, did not last long, and they had a divorce. After his first divorce, he married and divorced four other times but never had any children.

The summer of 1924 saw Balanchine, and three other dancers leave the newly formed Soviet Union to tour Western Europe. The other three were Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova and Nicholas Efimov, all of whom later became famous dancers across Europe and the United States. All talented four dancers invited, by Impresario Sergei Diaghilev (the director) to audition for his Ballets Russes in Paris, and they eventually got into the company.

Things started looking up for Balanchine after the promotion to ballet master of “The Ballet Russes” (The Russian ballets) by Sergei Diaghilev, which was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Diaghilev encouraged to a considerable extent his choreography. Between 1924 and the time of Diaghilev's death in 1929, Balanchine came up with nine ballets, as well as some other lesser works....
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