Balanchine – The Father of American Ballet

A Brief Biography:

George Balanchine was born Georgi Melitonovich Balanchivadze in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904.  He was enrolled in the Imperial Theater Ballet School in St. Petersburg as a child and credits his first role as a cupid in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty as the inspiration for his career in ballet.  In 1921, Balanchine became a dancer at the State Theater of Opera and Ballet (formerly the Mariinksy Theater) and choreographed, danced, and organized an experimental ballet company during his time there.  In 1924, Balanchine joined a touring troupe called the Principal Dancers of the Soviet State Ballet.  During a tour in Germany, the troupe (and Balanchine) decided to defect from the Soviet Union and, after an audition in Paris, Balanchine joined Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

From 1925 to 1933, Balanchine choreographed for various ballet companies including the Opera de Monte-Carlo, the Ballets Russes, the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, and Les Ballets.  In 1933, Lincoln Kirstein (an American writer, impresario, art connoisseur, philanthropist, and cultural figure in New York City) met Balanchine in London and invited him to come to the United States and establish an American ballet school and company.  In 1934, Kirstein and Balanchine established the School of American Ballet and, a year later in 1935, established the American Ballet (later re-christened the New York City Ballet in 1948).  Balanchine built his legacy of choreography and style in America from 1934 to 1983 and, in early 1983, died in New York City at the age of 79.

Balanchine was an international pioneer of dance and was instrumental in paving the way for ballet in America to flourish.  To this day, his works are celebrated and performed all over the world and his innovative creative style continues to dazzle and inspire dancers and audiences alike. Each season, Ballet Arizona celebrates George Balanchine by bringing three of his masterpieces to life on stage in the All Balanchine production.

Please see below for a snippet of a documentary on George Balanchine, a short list of works we have performed, and links to learn more.

A Short List of Works (that Ballet Arizona has performed):


Allegro Brillante


Divertimento No. 15


La Sonnambula

La Valse

Monumentum Pro Gesualdo

Movements for Piano & Orchestra

Prodigal Son

Raymonda Variations

Rubies (from the ballet JEWELS)


Square Dance

Emeralds (from the ballet JEWELS)

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Symphony in 3 Movements

The Four Temperaments

Theme & Variations


Western Symphony

  • The George Balanchine Trust

    Explore the governing body that preserves the work of George Balanchine and determines who may present and perform these ballets. The George Balanchine Trust

  • The George Balanchine Foundation

    The mission of The George Balanchine Foundation is to utilize the Balanchine legacy to advance the development of dance and its allied arts in the United States and throughout the world on behalf of the dance community at large. Learn More About The Foundation

  • The Choreographer Series: A Look at Balanchine

    Learn about the Father of American Ballet, George Balanchine, and why his works are celebrated throughout the world. Visit Our Blog

  • Which Balanchine Ballet Are You?

    From neoclassical to Broadway, the Father of American Ballet really did it all. Take our quiz and find out which iconic Balanchine ballet you are! Learn More

  • Our Top 5 Balanchine Quotes

    George Balanchine's ballets left a lasting impression on the world, but so did his words. Here are our top 5 favorite Balanchine quotes to inspire you! Read the Blog Post