the Ballet
Ballet Encyclopedia

George Melitonovich Balanchine

born: 1904
died: 1983

The grandson of a Russian Orthodox Bishop and German Baron and son of a soloist of the Tbilisi Opera and composer Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze, (whom we know today as George Balanchine), was born January 22, 1904 - the day that Marius Petipa saw no heir to the great ballet tradition he had created and recorded in his diary "All my work is reduced to ashes." on Kirochnaya Street in St. Petersburg.

In his seventy-nine years Balanchine choreographed over three hundred ballets of which about one hundred are still performed today. His ballets have been performed around the world and somewhere there is probably a company staging one of his works right now. Although he refused many honorary degrees he did still get four doctorates, several awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest U.S. honour for a civilian.

Balanchine changed and expanded ballet in ways that nobody else thought possible. He did away with huge costumes and stage clutter and was "One of the major forces in causing Americans to start paying attention to ballet." according to his obituary in the National Review. Martha Graham said that watching Balanchine choreograph was "like watching light pass through him, and in the same natural yet marvelous way that a prism refracts light, he refracts music into dance."

For Balanchine dance was about motion and its relationship to the music. Something that he realized nearly a century ago but many people have yet to realize. There is not yet a new steward that we know of to carry on the tradition of Petipa and Balanchine.