Today, let's take a moment to reflect on the legacy of George Balanchine, the father of American ballet.
He was an innovator, who took his Russian training and tweaked it to match the frenetic pace of his adopted home. Now, Balanchine dancers are known for their speed, precision and musicality. He was an entrepreneur, who created his own ballet education program and founded his own company. We still look to the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet to preserve his legacy. He was a visionary, whose first ballet created in America (Serenade, in 1934!) looks as fresh today as it did 82 years ago.
Now, not only is his work exported to companies around the globe, but several other American companies are noted for their relationship to his training and choreography, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. Balanchine really is everywhere.
Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova in George Balanchine's "Diamonds" from Jewels (photo by Elena Fetisova)
His legacy isn't without controversy, though, and many people think Balanchine's preference for waif-like ballerinas helped normalize extremely thin bodies in the ballet world. Others don't like his style at all, and consider Balanchine technique to be too affected.
Fortunately, his body of work is so large and varied—and is now danced by so many companies—we can look at it and make decisions about its merit for ourselves. But there's no denying the lasting impact of his work. Who do you think will be the choreographers we still remember in another one hundred years?