George Balanchine backstage (Paul Kolnik, courtesy Dance Magazine Archives)

The Best Balanchine Quotes in Honor of Mr. B's Birthday

Happy birthday, George Balanchine! The great choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet would have been 114 years old today. Balanchine revolutionized ballet, especially American ballet—and he also had quite a way with words. To celebrate Mr. B's birthday, we rounded up some of our favorite iconic Balanchine quotes.


"See the music, hear the dance."

"Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for—for another time? There are not other times. There is only now. Right now."

"First comes the sweat. Then comes the beauty, if you're very lucky and have said your prayers."

"Dancers are instruments, like a piano the choreographer plays."


"Put a man and a girl onstage and there is already a story; a man and two girls, there's already a plot."

"I don't want people who want to dance. I want people who have to dance."

"God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it—from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do."

"The mirror is not you. The mirror is you looking at yourself."


"There are no mothers-in-law in ballet."

"Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policemen, always alert, always tense. But I don't agree with that, because policemen don't have to look beautiful at the same time."

"Ballet is important and significant—yes. But first of all, it is a pleasure."

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