George Balanchine, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, had one of the strongest influences on American ballet in the twentieth century. Trained at the Imperial School, he began to choreograph a number of experimental works in the 1920s but was not well-received. In 1924, he was permitted to leave Russia, and he soon became the ballet master for Serge Diaghilev in Paris. Following Diaghilev’s death, Balanchine was brought to the United States. After several attempts at establishing dance companies in America, he finally became successful with the formation of the New York City Ballet Company. The company achieved international critical acclaim in 1950 when it was recognized in Great Britain and throughout Europe. Balanchine’s choreographic style, called neoclassic, took a very clean and simple approach to presentation. Dancers were often dressed in a simple leotard and tights where a long, lean body structure was preferred for the female dancer. During the 1950s to the 1970s, Balanchine helped the New York City Ballet Company become one of the world’s strongest dance companies with the many dances he choreographed for the company. Some of Balanchine’s most famous ballet works include Apollo, The Prodigal Son, The Four Temperaments, Serenade, and The Firebird I.
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