I have just returned from a very successful two days at Dillington, presenting talks on George Balanchine – from the Russian Revolution to Founding New York City Ballet and The History of Ballet through Art.
Balanchine’s story is utterly fascinating. Born in St Petersburg, Georgi was brought up in Lounatiokki (Lounatjoki) in the province of Viipuri, then Russia, now Finland. The town was a three-hour train ride from St Petersburg – the family had moved there when Balanchine’s father lost all his money. But at the age of nine Georgi entered the Imperial Ballet School; he survived the privations of war and revolution, and then he started to look at new ways of choreographing which he took first to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and eventually to America, later founding New York City Ballet. He became more American than many Americans and left behind an astounding legacy of ballets, now danced the world over.
The story of ballet starts in Renaissance Italy before taking root in the French court of Louis XIV. From here it spread throughout Europe, with famous artists – painters such as Lancret and Gainsborough – capturing the first superstars. Then Degas immortalised the dancers of Paris Opera Ballet as never before or since. With the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev came a creative revolution as seen in the scenic works of Benois, Bakst and so many more. Today dancers are represented in all the fine art genres of painting, sculpture and photography.
Everyone who attended Dillington was so engaged and enthusiastic, asking lots of really interesting questions. One regular on my courses summed it up in feedback as ‘two days of sheer delight’!