Balanchine’s greatest accomplishment and gift to the ballet world and America was his Americanization of ballet and starting truly American ballet. When Balanchine arrived in America in 1933, “serious discussions began at once about the school (to be called the School of American Ballet, reflecting Balanchine’s determination that it was American ballet he had come to teach)” (Gottlieb 75). Balanchine, right from the start was determined to make American ballet and in this determination he knew he first and foremost needed to have a school to teach this American ballet. Reynolds and McCormick discuss how, “During the 1930s the portrayal of American life in dance became something of a mission…All of these works [choreographed during this time] proved that, viewed purely as subject matter, the American experience was a valid starting point for the creation of a ballet” (131). Balanchine was a part of the wave in America to create ballet that was American. Gottlieb discuss how:
American young girls, Kirstein has written, “were not sylphides; they were basketball champions and queens of the tennis court, whose proper domain was athletics. They were long-legged, long-necked, slim-hipped, and capable of endless acrobatic virtuosity. The drum majorettes, the cheerleader of the high-school football team of the thirties filled [Balanchine’s] eye…The pathos and suavity of the dying swan, the purity and regal behavior of the elder ballerina, were to be replaced by the raciness, an alert celerity which claimed as its own the gaiety of sport and the skill of the champion athlete (77).
American girls (and boys) are unique from other cultures around the world. Americans are a unique breed of people and Balanchine and Kirstein sought to capitalize on this fact. America is a country made mostly of immigrants who are proud to belong their relatively new country, like a teenager trying to find its voice. Their uniqueness stems from their fresh perspective, new look, and wanting to create something all their own. A culture as unique as America has, needed its own style of ballet to show it off, which is was the product of Balanchine’s work.
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
Thanks Mom! You rock. 🙂 Happy almost Mother’s Day. xoxo