“I don’t have a past. I have a continuous present. The past is part of the present, just as the future is. We exist in time.”
22 January 1904
Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze, son of a composer, is born in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Balanchivadze enrolls in the Imperial Theater Ballet School in St. Petersburg.
Balanchivadze performs on stage for the first time, playing a cupid in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theater, an experience he later credits with inspiring him to pursue a career in ballet.
Balanchivadze creates his first choreography for student ballet concerts. He begins three years of piano and music theory at the Petrograd Conservatory of Music.
Balanchivadze becomes a dancer at the State Theater of Opera and Ballet (formerly known as the Mariinsky Theater).
Balanchivadze choreographs for the School’s graduation performances, dances at the State Theater, and organizes the Young Ballet, a small experimental company.
Balanchivadze joins a touring troupe, Principal Dancers of the Soviet State Ballet. While performing in Germany, the troupe decides not to return to the Soviet Union. After an engagement in London, he travels to Paris to audition for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Diaghilev hires him and changes Balanchivadze’s name to George Balanchine.
1925 – 1927
Balanchine choreographs ballets for the Opera de Monte-Carlo and the Ballets Russes including L’enfant et les Sortilèges, a reworking of Léonide Massine’s Le Chant du Rossignol, Barabau, La Pastorale, Jack in the Box, The Triumph of Neptune, and La Chatte.
Apollon Musagète (later named Apollo) with music by Igor Stravinsky
Prodigal Son with music by Sergei Prokofiev
Diaghilev dies in Venice. The Ballets Russes disbands.
1930 – 1933
Balanchine choreographs for companies in Paris, London, Copenhagen, and Monte Carlo, including the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo and Les Ballets 1933.
Lincoln Kirstein meets Balanchine in London and invites him to the United States to establish an American ballet school and company.
Balanchine arrives in New York on October 17.
Kirstein and Balanchine, with the financial support of Edward M. M. Warburg, establish the School of American Ballet, which opens on January 2. Balanchine choreographs Serenade, with music by Tschaikovsky, his first ballet created in America, which premieres at the Warburg estate.
Balanchine and Kirstein establish the American Ballet, a professional company, with dancers from the School of American Ballet.
Balanchine is hired as ballet master of the Metropolitan Opera, and the American Ballet becomes its resident ballet company.
Balanchine begins choreographing for Broadway productions, including Ziegfield Follies: 1936 Edition and On Your Toes. Some of his dancers also appear with Ballet Caravan, a small touring company founded by Kirstein.
Balanchine stages his first Stravinsky Festival, presented by the American Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House and continues his work on Broadway musicals.
Balanchine leaves the Metropolitan Opera and takes some of his dancers to Hollywood, where he choreographs The Goldwyn Follies.
Balanchine becomes a United States citizen. He directs the dances for the Hollywood film of On Your Toes.
Balanchine and Kirstein establish the American Ballet Caravan. The Company embarks upon a five-month goodwill tour of South America, which disbands at the tour’s end. Balanchine choreographs Ballet Imperial (later renamed Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2) and Concerto Barocco.
1944 – 1946
Balanchine is hired as resident choreographer of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, for which he creates Danses Concertantes, Raymonda, and Night Shadow (later called La Sonnambula).
Balanchine and Kirstein establish Ballet Society. Balanchine choreographs The Four Temperaments to a commissioned score by Paul Hindemith in 1940 for the company’s first performance.
Balanchine works for six months as ballet master of the Paris Opera Ballet, for which he choreographs Le Palais de Cristal (renamed Symphony in C in 1948 for its American premiere). He choreographs Theme and Variations for Ballet Theatre.
Balanchine choreographs Orpheus to a commissioned score by Stravinsky. Following the success of the ballet, Morton Baum, of the New York City Center of Music and Drama, invites Balanchine’s troupe to join the organization as its resident ballet company, renamed the New York City Ballet. The first performance took place on October 11.
George Balanchine rehearsing Peter Martins in Orpheus. Choreography © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Carolyn George.
“Dance is a continuation. You cannot predict the signs of its evolution.”
The Nutcracker (Balanchine’s first full-length work for New York City Ballet)
Stars and Stripes
Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The New York City Ballet tours the Soviet Union. It is Balanchine’s first visit to his native country since he emigrated 38 years earlier.
New York City Ballet moves into its new home, The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which was designed by Philip Johnson in consultation with Balanchine and Kirstein.
Don Quixote, in which Balanchine plays the title role.
Balanchine stages his second Stravinsky Festival, for which he choreographs eight new ballets, including Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Duo Concertant, Symphony in Three Movements, and Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée.
Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir
Balanchine stages a three-week festival honoring Ravel, for which he choreographs Tzigane, Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Sonatine.
Ballo della Regina
Kammermusic No. 2
Robert Schumann’s “Davidsbündlertänze”
Balanchine stages a Tschaikovsky Festival at the New York City Ballet, for which he choreographs a new version of Mozartiana, which he originally created for Les Ballets 1933.
Balanchine directs the Stravinsky Centennial Celebration, during which 25 ballets set to Stravinsky’s music are performed by the New York City Ballet.
George Balanchine dies in New York City on April 30.