Friday, January 12, 2024

George Ballanchine and the New York City Ballet

Lincoln Kirstein fell in love with ballet on a family trip to Europe while still a student, and he continued a deep commitment to the dance for the rest of his life.  In 1933 he met the brilliant choreographer George Ballanchine with the help of Pavel Tchelitchew who had designed some sets for Ballanchine.  It took 15 years of fund raising, cajoling, flattering New York arts moguls, and no small amount of skullduggery for Kirstein and Ballanchine to found the New York City Ballet in 1948.  In the meantime, Ballanchine came to the United States in 1934, running a ballet school and decamping to the West Coast for a few years before returing to New York for good in 1946.  The photo of the two men above is undated, but looks 1950-ish.

George Platt Lynes took this self portrait in ballet tights in 1948, possibly inspired by his friend's founding of the New York City Ballet.  Lynes and Kirstein had kept up their friendship since prep school, and Lincoln had alleviated some of George's financial problems by sending commissions his way to photograph ballet costumes and scenes.  Loyal to the end, Lincoln gave free ballet tickets to George during the final months of his life when he was broke and dying of lung cancer.


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