George Balanchine's Music


This photograph from the series "Choreographer George Balanchine" was taken in 1972 by photographer Leonid Zhdanov (1927−2010). When the New York City Ballet, led by George Balanchine (1904−1983), was on a tour in Moscow, the company visited the Moscow Academic Choreography School at the Bolshoi Theater (now known as the Moscow State Academy of Choreography). Mr. B, as they called Balanchine, gave an open lesson with his dancers on the stage of the school theater. Balanchine was born Georgi Balanchivadze in Saint Petersburg, son of Georgian composer Meliton Balanchivadze. After graduating from ballet school, he was accepted to the the corps de ballet of the State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet (now the Mariinsky Theater) and soon began to choreograph dances. Balanchine witnessed the success of the Moscow choreographer Kasian Goleizovsky, who came to Petrograd (later Leningrad; present-day Saint Petersburg) in 1922 on a tour with his company Chamber Ballet. Balanchine was captivated by the ideas of Goleizovsky, who became the founder of the new modern dance movement, and by the bold experiments of choreographer Fedor Lopukhov. Lopukhov created the first plotless ballet in the history of this art form, The Magnificence of the Universe, to the music of Beethoven, which premiered in Petrograd in 1923. Balanchine had a part in it as a young dancer. In 1924, while on a tour in Europe, Balanchine received an invitation to join the Ballets Russes directed by Sergei Diaghilev. On Diaghilev's advice, he changed his name to George Balanchine, the name by which he is known as the founder of neoclassical and modern American ballet. Zhdanov, a Bolshoi dancer and then a professor of choreography for 50 years, was also a professional ballet photographer for most of his career. His pictures are spontaneous and capture on film the movements, moods, and emotions of the unposed dancers. The Reborn Art Foundation in Moscow holds this image and the rest of the Zhdanov archive.

Last updated: February 3, 2015