Balanchine’s work is very much based in and influenced by the classical Russian ballet training he received as a child. Even through Balanchine created something decidedly new, he still references the old, in this case his Russian training. Speaking of Diaghilev, Reynolds and McCormick state that, “…It is through his work and the inspiration it provided such seminal figures as Massine, de Valois, Fokine, Nijinsky, and Balanchine that the ideals of Russian classicism, which had reached a high point of development in nineteenth-century St. Petersburg, were assured throughout the world” (33). This was classicism, left behind by Petipa that Balanchine inherited and infused in his works. Diaghilev, through his Ballet Russe, made the ideals of Russian classicism popular and well known in Europe which is deeply connected with the United States. Discussing the ballet training received at the School of American Ballet in comparison to other schools internationally Taylor points out,  “…a marked difference in basic training does not exist, because both bases spring from the Russian tradition that Balanchine loved so much” (88). This why dancers like Peter Martins who were not trained at the School of American Ballet were able to be successful in Balanchine’s company.  The roots of Balanchine’s work are so classical that a dancer can be trained in a different classical school and still have great success in Balanchine’s company.  Indeed, even in his choreography, “Balanchine’s movement vocabulary is that of classical ballet inherited from Petipa, and in homage to his Maryinsky training Balanchine produced his own versions of scenes from Raymonda and Swan Lake” (Anderson 151).  Balanchine made numerous ballets that paid homage to the classicism he grew up with in Russia, these included Raymonda Variations and Swan Lake, among many others.  Discussing Raymonda Variations, “Set to a score by Alexander Glazounov, it is one of many ballets described as Balanchine’s tribute to his heritage” (Goldner 87).  Viewing this work, it is easy to see the classicism of it. For example, the hops on pointe are a very classical element in the work.  Joan Cass states, “Raymonda Variations (1946) embodies the purest classical formalism in patterns and structure” (323). Pure classical ballet is overrun with patterns and structure, as Ms. Schorer states, dancers move in diagonals, semicircles and repeat steps (From Petipa to Balanchine: Works & process at the Guggenheim).  Raymonda Variations has all these elements and can therefore be described as purest classical.  Goldner goes on to state that, “The nine variations look like they could have been made by Petipa, and that is their charm” (90).  This is impressive because Balanchine remade all the variations in his Raymonda adding more relevés and taking out some of the story elements as Ms. Schorer points out in From Petipa to Balanchine: Works & process at the Guggenheim.  Yet, at the same time Balanchine fully embraces his Russia ballet training in his choreography. In Russia, two choreographers of the early 1900s in particular influenced Balanchine, Fyodor Lopukhov and Kasian Goleizovsky. Reynolds and McCormick in No Fixed Points; Dance in the Twentieth Century, explain that, “Balanchine, a teenager as the 1920s began and just starting to choreograph, was an admirer of Lopukhov, but he was far more impressed with the work of another radical innovator, Kasian Goleizovsky” (248).  Not all ballet made in Russia was strictly classical as the work of Lopukhov and Goleizovsky illustrate, and Balanchine saw their example that ballet did not need to be strictly classical and he used it in his work.  Reynolds and McCormick go on to state that, “Bored by the classics but equally against the “free style” perpetrated by Isadora’s many imitators, Goleizovsky attempted to revitalize the language of classical dance by introducing outside elements, including gymnastics” (248). Even while Balanchine was still in Russia he was beginning to embrace the ideas of putting new elements into classical ballet, which would lead him to create American ballet.


2 thoughts on “George Balanchine

  1. Your are such a good writer! I sent this post with 2 others of your last ones to Grandma Jensen with her Mothers Day gift. Have a wonderful day!! Much love, Mom

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