Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
George Balanchine (January 9 (O.S.) = January 22 (N.S.), 1904–April 30, 1983) was one of the 20th century's foremost choreographers, and one of the founders of American ballet. His work formed a bridge between classical and modern ballet.
He was born Giorgi Balanchivadze in Saint Petersburg, the son of famous Georgian composer and public benefactor, one of the founders of Georgian opera Meliton Balanchivadze (1862-1937). His brother Andria Balanchivadze (1906-1992) was also a well-known Georgian composer. In 1921 he graduated from the ballet class of the Petrograd St Mary Theater's School . In 1923 he graduated from the Petrograd Conservatory . In 1921-1924 Balanchine was an artist with the Petrograd Theater of Opera and Ballet .
In 1924, he was in a small troupe of ballet dancers that left the Soviet Union for a tour in Western Europe. In London, he was seen by Serge Diaghilev and was asked to join the Ballets Russes, initially as a dancer, but later as principal choreographer. A knee injury ended his dancing career.
Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996), an arts patron, persuaded Balanchine to come to the United States to form an American ballet company in 1933. Balanchine insisted that first there be a school, and founded the School of American Ballet. A year later, the American Ballet opened and became the resident ballet company at the Metropolitan Opera. Balanchine soon left.
In 1946 he founded the Ballet Society, which as the New York City Ballet became resident at City Center.
His 1954 staging of The Nutcracker is largely responsible for making the ballet a Christmas tradition in the United States.
He also worked as a choreographer for musical theater, movies, and television.
In 1983, Balanchine died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, diagnosed only after his death. He first showed symptoms in 1978 when he began losing his balance while dancing. As the disease progressed his equilibrium, eyesight and hearing deteriorated. By 1982 he was incapacitated. Medical tests showed no cause but Balanchine would not permit a brain biopsy. The cause of death was determined by autopsy. In his last years he also suffered from angina and underwent heart bypass surgery.
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