Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #68

George Balanchine (1904 – 1983)

68 George Balanchine

New York, where classical art forms have always thrived, is one of the few cities where a performer can make a steady living dancing ballet. Today, this is largely thanks to the pioneering vision and obsession of George Balanchine. Known as the Father of American Ballet, Balanchine’s choreography flourished in his native Russia and throughout Europe, under the auspices of legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev. When he came to New York, he founded the School of American Ballet and its affiliated professional company, the New York City Ballet. Beginning at City Center, NYCB moved to Lincoln Center when its home there was built according to Balanchine’s specifications during the 1964 World’s Fair. His renowned production of The Nutcracker remains a Christmastime tradition for dance fans throughout the city and beyond. Famed for his musicality, he famously said “See the music, hear the dance,” in reference to the collaboration between ballet artists. Dancers who have collaborated with him include Suzanne Farrell, Gelsey Kirkland, Jacques d’Amboise, Peter Martins, and of course Mikhail Baryshnikov. Balanchine also worked on Broadway, choreographing such classics as On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, and The Boys from Syracuse. In 1988, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

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