George Balanchine: Ballets Russes.

Posted by on 08.23.2010

Get the book I am reading: George Balanchine The Ballet Maker by Robert Gottlieb.

After leaving Russia, Balanchine and his group, the Young Ballet, would travel to Paris and London, meeting up with Serge Diaghilev, the director of Ballets Russes.  Diaghilev hired the dancers of the struggling Young Ballet and allowed Balanchine to show him his choreography.  First, Balanchine was assigned to the opera ballets that needed to be freshened up a bit.  Diaghilev was impressed with his work and was later quoted saying, “I think he’s a genius.”


During this time Balanchine continued to dance and many recalled that he was quite a nice dancer.  In 1927 he sustained an injury to his knee that ended his dancing career, limiting him to character roles, which he adored.  It was at this time, while in his mid-twenties that he would become the principal choreographer for one of the most respectable companies of the day, Ballets Russes. 

While with the company, George would go on to create masterpieces that he would later re-create in America.  In 1928 and 1929 two favorites still performed today were born: “Apollon Musagete” (now “Apollo”) and “The Prodigal Son”. When performed by New York City Ballet in 1960, years after it’s American debut, “The Prodigal Son” would become the signature role of Miami City Ballet’s Director, Edward Villella.  This period in Balanchine’s career would also foster his budding relationship with composer, Igor Stravinsky.  Balanchine fell in love with his music and would go on to create many ballets working directly with him.

After Serge Diaghilev’s death in the summer of 1929, Balanchine decided that it was time for him to venture out on his own. Where would he go? What would he come up against? Check back for the next installment, coming soon.

Earlier George Balanchine Series posts:
What Would Balanchine Think?
George Balanchine: Ballet in Russia.

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