Dance in the 20th Century

In the 20th century we see many new happenings in the ballet world. Europe and Russia were advancing even more. Meanwhile ballet was coming to America.

Mikhail Fokine a graduate of the Imperial School in Russia pushed for even more expression from the dancers is his ballets around the turn of the century. He was able to realize his beliefs when he first started choreographing for the Ballet Russes. The Ballet Russes opened in Paris in 1909 under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. They were a huge success especially because ballet had declined over the years in France. The Ballet Russes were also responsible for moving ballet into modern times. Their ballets were dramatic and exotic. Fokine created the famous ballets, Firebird (1910) and Petrushka (1911) for the Ballet Russes. Some of the famous dancers in the Ballet Russes were Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Enrico Cecchetti and George Balanchine. Nijinsky would later become the choreographer for the Ballet Russes and Cecchetti would later become famous for his method, the Cecchetti Method that is used today. The Ballet Russes existed until 1929 at the time of Diaghilev’s death. The dancers then scattered to other ballet companies around the world.

George Balanchine is often credited as the man who brought ballet to America. He was convinced by a man named Lincoln Kirstein to come to America from Europe when the Ballet Russes had ended after Diaghilev’s death. Balanchine agreed and together they formed the School of American Ballet in New York City in 1934. Its aim was to preserve the classical dance. Balachine would later run the New York City Ballet which began in 1948. The American Ballet Theater also began in 1940.

In the 60s and 70s Russian men were coming back into focus in ballet. Two famous Russian male dancers that are credited in bringing men back into the spotlight are Rudlof Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Rudolf Nureyev defected from Russia in 1961 while on tour in Paris. He then partnered with Margot Fonteyn. He worked with many European and American companies until his death in 1993. Mikhail Baryshnikov also sought political asylum in 1974 while he was on tour in Canada. He then became the principal dancer for the America Ballet Theater. He later became their artistic director in 1980. Baryshnikov was known for his excellence in technique.

There are so many other influential dancers and choreographers during this time. There was Jerome Robbins who choreographed for the New York City Ballet and added his jazz flavor to many of his works. Agnes de Mille’s choreography was fresh and her works have also become American classics. Other choreographers that should received mention are; Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp.

There are now many other American ballet companies that began in the 20th century. Some of them include, the San Francisco ballet, the Houston Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet. The purpose of most ballet companies today is to create new works by new choreographers as well as preserving the works already in existence.

Because of these people mentioned as well as many others, ballet in America today is as influential as Russia and England.

Early Dance

From Italy to France

France and King Louis the XIV

Ballet in the 1700s

The 1800s and the Romantic Ballet