George Balanchine (1904 – 1983) was one of the key figures of 20th century ballet. Known as the father of American ballet, he co-founded the New York City Ballet and remained its Artistic Director for more than 35 years.
Balanchine took the standards and technique from his time at the Imperial Ballet School and fused it with other schools of movement that he had adopted during his tenure on Broadway and in Hollywood, creating his signature “neoclassical style”. He was a choreographer known for his musicality; he expressed music with dance and worked extensively with leading composers of his time, including Igor Stravinsky. Balanchine was invited to America in 1933 by a young arts patron named Lincoln Kirstein, and together they founded the School of American Ballet. Along with Kirstein, Balanchine also co-founded the New York City Ballet.
The famous dancer and choreographer was born as Giorgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze in Saint Petersburg to the family of noted Georgian opera singer and composer Meliton Balanchivadze, one of the founders of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater and who later served as the culture minister of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
As a child, Balanchine was not particularly interested in ballet, but his mother insisted that young Giorgi accompanied his sister Tamara, who shared her mother’s interest in the art. But life itself led young Balanchine into the world of ballet, he received an excellent education and finally became one of the top ballet stars of the 20th century.
Photo: Preserved in the Art Palace of Georgia