Balanchine, George (real name, GeorgiMelitonovich Balanchivadze)

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Balanchine, George (real name, GeorgiMelitonovich Balanchivadze)

Balanchine, George (real name, GeorgiMelitonovich Balanchivadze), celebrated Russian-American choreographer, son of Meliton (An-tonovich) and brother of Andrei (Melitonovich) Balanchivadze; b. St. Petersburg, Jan. 22, 1904; d. N.Y., April 30, 1983. He attended the Imperial Theater School in St. Petersburg, where he learned the rudiments of classical dance. He also took piano lessons at the Petrograd Cons., and acquired a certain ability to read scores. In 1924 he undertook a tour through Germany and England; then joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris, for which he created a number of works. In 1933, at the invitation of Lincoln Kirstein, he went to N.Y.; together they formed the School of American Ballet, which opened on Jan. 2, 1934. In 1935 it was incorporated as the American Ballet, with Balanchine as its chief choreographer. The group was renamed the Ballet Soc. in 1946, and in 1948 it was reorganized as the N.Y. City Ballet, and became part of the City Center. In 1962 Balanchine made a tour of Russia with this company. He was distinguished for his modern productions, with music by Stravinsky, Ives, and other contemporary composers. In 1983 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Early in that year he was hospitalized with an ailment diagnosed as “progressive cerebral disintegration.”As a gesture of devotion, he was named director emeritus of the N.Y. City Ballet, but had to abandon all active work, and soon died of pneumonia. Balanchine adored women; he used to say, “Ballet is woman.” He was married five times, each time to a dancer: the first was Tamara Geva, whom he married in Russia when he was 18 and she was 15; his second wife was Alexandra Danilova, whom he married in 1927; his third and most famous wife was Vera Zorina, whom he married in 1938; then followed Maria Tallchief, and, finally, Tanaquil LeClercq, from whom he was divorced in 1969. In his long life as a choreographer, Balanchine created nearly 200 ballets to musical scores ranging from the Baroque to the avant-garde; he once said, “Music must be seen, and dance must be heard.”


G. and F. Mason, B.’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets (Garden City, N.Y., 1954); B. Taper, B. (N.Y. 1963); H. Koegler, B. und das moderne Ballet (Hannover, 1964); L. Kirstein, The New York City Ballet (N.Y., 1973); Choreography by G. B.: A Catalogue of Works (N.Y., 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Balanchine, George (real name, GeorgiMelitonovich Balanchivadze)

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