How George Balanchine (1/22/1904) Used the Ardor Aroused by Women to Change the Way America Sees Ballet
The French writer Paul Valery once wrote: "The ardor aroused in men by the beauty of women can only be satisfied by God." There is no truer representation of this assertion than the life and work of choreographer George Balanchine, who was born January 22, 1904. Arguably the most important figure in American ballet, his influence on the way Americans regard this particular art form cannot be denied. He not only taught dancers how to dance, he taught Americans how to look at ballet.
The anniversary of Balanchine's birth happens to coincide with that of playwright August Strindberg (1849), whose nearly insane denunciations of women as "half apes" and "instinctively evil" animals have branded him as a misogynist. It also coincides with the still controversial anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which legalized elective abortion in fifty states.
Balanchine's place within a configuration that yields such ironies is worth noting. Not only for his contributions to art but for his understanding of the role of The Feminine in relation to the creative process. Women inspire. God creates. Men assemble the pieces and do the yeoman's work. Perhaps that is why Balanchine was great. This understanding aligns him with men like Hermann Hesse, Goethe, and Carl Jung.
There is so much more to say about the astonishing life and work of George Balanchine. Some of it can be found in the interviews, photographs, and video clips in the Storify slide-show presentation below.
I'm a storyteller whose background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
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