Robbins (Rabinowitz), Jerome

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ROBBINS (Rabinowitz), JEROME

ROBBINS (Rabinowitz ), JEROME (1918–1998), U.S. dancer, choreographer, director, and producer considered by many the greatest American-born ballet choreographer and the best choreographer on Broadway. Moreover, his works embrace a wide range of styles and moods. Robbins was born in New York, studied ballet and modern dance, had violin and piano lessons, and was interested in marionettes. In 1940, he joined the Ballet Theatre (later the American Ballet Theater) and danced his first important role as Petrouchka in 1942. He subsequently proved an outstanding interpreter of comic and dramatic characters. His first choreographic work Fancy Free (1944), in a style based on contemporary movement, was an immediate success and was expanded into a musical, On the Town. Robbins choreographed Interplay (1945), Facsimile (1946), and other works for the Ballet Theatre. In 1948 he joined the New York City Ballet, where he was associate artistic director from 1949 to 1961, and created nine works for its company, including a reworking of Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun (1953) and Concert Chopin (1956). He later choreographed many works for the company, including Bach's Goldberg Variations (1971); Stravinsky's Requiem Canticle; and Philip Glass's Glass Pieces (1983). From 1944 onward, Robbins was also active in the Broadway theater, where his choreographic successes included West Side Story, in collaboration with composer Leonard *Bernstein (1957), which made him world famous. From 1958 to 1961, Robbins headed his own company, Ballets U.S.A., which played in Europe and America. In 1964, his direction of the musical Fiddler on the Roof was outstandingly successful. In 1952, Robbins assisted in the establishment of the *Inbal dance company in Israel. In 1966, he founded the American Theater Laboratory for the development of new forms in the musical theater.

Robbins was Chevalier de l'ordre des arts et lettres (France, 1964); was awarded an honorary doctorate from the City University of New York (1980); and received the Hans Christian Andersen award (1988) and the Handel Medallion of the City of New York (1990).

bibliography:

ied, vol. 5, 358b–368a; International Dictionary of Ballet, vol. 2, 1199–203.

[Marcia B. Siegel /

Amnon Shiloah (2nd ed.)]