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November 21, 2013

Courses: From the Mariinsky to Manhattan: George Balanchine and the Transformation of American Dance

MW 2:30-4:00: Professor Beth Genné
RC Humanities 444/ Dance 564 Winter 2014

This seminar examines the life and works of Russian-American dancer/choreographer George Balanchine.

Balanchine ranked with Picasso and Stravinsky as one of the titans of twentieth century arts. Balanchine’s

fusion of so-called “fine” and “popular” art helped transform the landscape of American arts during the

first part of the twentieth century by altering and adapting the Russian tradition of dance to the culture

of his adopted home in the U.S. resulting in a reinvigoration of dance in the American Musical Theatre

and the creation of a distinctively American ballet. This seminar examines the interaction and fusion

of “high” and “low”, “Russian” and “American” forms, during one of the most fascinating periods of

American history when new immigrants to America combined old world and new world forms to create

new “American” styles.


Born in Tsarist Russia, Balanchine survived the 1917 Revolution to make a career in America (1933-

83). He absorbed influences from the Russian Imperial ballet, but participated in the artistic ferment

surrounding the Russian revolution and, exiled to Paris, the modernist innovations of Diaghilev’s Russian

Ballet working with, among others, Picasso, Matisse, Prokofiev and his life long friend and compatriot,

Igor Stravinsky. Falling in love with America, he settled in New York City where he founded New York

City Ballet and created a stunning series of innovative dances for a new kind of American classical dancer

(including the first native American ballerina, Maria Tallchief and the African American dancer, Arthur

Mitchell.) But Balanchine was also a vital part of American popular culture, working in the Broadway

musical theater and Hollywood films. His work with jazz dancers Josephine Baker and The Nicholas

Brothers and composers George and Ira Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart influenced their development and

his own. We will examine not just Balanchine’s works but those he influenced: Jerome Robbins, Gene

Kelly, Fred Astaire, Twyla Tharp and others.

You do not have to have a dance background to do well in this course.

Posted by jmkirsch at November 21, 2013 02:48 PM

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