Considered the foremost creator of Neoclassical ballets, George Balanchine (1902-1983) defected from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and immigrated to the United States almost a decade later. A prolific choreographer, Balanchine created numerous plotless ballets, accenting the musical textures and... [more]
Considered the foremost creator of Neoclassical ballets, George Balanchine (1902-1983) defected from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and immigrated to the United States almost a decade later. A prolific choreographer, Balanchine created numerous plotless ballets, accenting the musical textures and structure of scores created chiefly by modern composers such as Stravinsky, Hindemith, Gershwin, and Ives. Extremely sensitive to musicality in dance, Balanchine's phrasing often included syncopated rhythms that transfigured and modernized the shapes of classical ballet. The "Four Temperaments" (1946), "Agon" (1957), and "Jewels" (1967), three of Balanchine's masterpieces, illustrate the extremes shapes he created. He introduced hips that lift out of classical alignment in order to increase leg height; flexed feet and hands; legs set in parallel; turns that rotate off the vertical axis. Additionally, Balanchine mutated traditional pas de deux movement, generating erotic and twisted shapes in partnering and pairing lone male dancers with multiple ballerinas simultaneously.
Essentially, Balanchine streamlined ballet. In his ballets, costumes often consist of basic leotards and tights, resembling nothing so much as rehearsal attire. Dancers perform with cool absorption in the movement, energetically fulfilling the choreography rather than pantomiming the exaggerated emotion and drama of a character. Balanchine pared down the number of dancers in the corps de ballet, yet incorporated them more thoroughly into the overall shape and structure of his works. He is also credited with streamlining the body of the ballerina; he preferred incredibly thin, long-legged dancers with short torsos and thin necks. In his creative process, the ballerina acted as muse -- over the course of his life, he even ended up married to four of them. It is unsurprising then, that he often quoted as saying: "ballet is woman".