From the Director

The George Balanchine Trust - The Prodigal Son

February 2016

Lourdes Lopez, artistic director of Miami City Ballet, has commissioned an entirely new design for George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will premiere at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on March 18th.

Lourdes approached the Trust over two years ago with the idea to (re)imagine the ballet with a design by the visual artist, author and designer Michele Oka Doner.   The collaboration has produced a highly imaginative and original costume and scenic design for the ballet, which Lourdes and Michele have worked on with great passion and not a small amount of fear, as they both appreciate the challenge of illustrating the brilliant choreography in Midsummer.

The Trust was very interested in the proposed (re)imagination, as it is not lost on anyone who followed Balanchine’s career that he continually made changes to his ballets over decades of performances.  As times changed, so did his idea of what was relevant to the audiences of the day, and he wanted the designs to welcome his audiences into his world of music and choreography.  He was famous for minimizing the costume design in many of his ballets over time to reveal more of the dancers’ bodies.

Balanchine illustrated the music; design illustrated his choreography.  We look forward with great anticipation to the new Midsummer at Miami City Ballet and we salute Lourdes on her artistic vision and her willingness to take the risks associated with breaking new ground.  Balanchine’s choreography is with her.  How could she be anything but successful?

Ellen Sorrin, Director


November 2014

There is an historic event taking place in St. Petersburg this month and what is amazing is that it has taken so long to happen.

George Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations is being presented at the Vaganova Academy, marking the first time a Balanchine ballet has been performed by that venerable institution.  One might wonder why it has taken all of these years, decades in fact, for the Academy to be interested in having its students dance Balanchine.  What could possibly be the reason?

Russia opened up to performing Balanchine as early as 1987, when the Moscow Ballet (not the Bolshoi) presented Donizetti Variations.  Other companies followed, with the Mariinsky (then the Kirov) performing Apollo and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux in 1991; the Mussorgsky Ballet giving its audiences Theme and Variations in 1993; Perm Ballet contributing Concerto Barocco in 1996; the Bolshoi presenting Agon in 1999;  and Tbilisi, in Balanchine’s home country of Georgia, exploding in 2005 with an unprecedented nine ballets being taken into their repertory – Serenade, Apollo, Western Symphony, Mozartiana, Donizetti Variations, Chaconne, Tarantella, Duo Concertant and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux.  Belarus joined the party in 2012 with Serenade, and the ever-growing plethora of galas, many taking place in Russia, have presented Balanchine danced by a roster of international stars.

Now, in 2014, the Vaganova Academy has joined the Balanchine fraternity and in presenting Raymonda Variations, gives continued life to his ballets as a vehicle for teaching and experiencing the neo-classical style that marked a significant addition to the classical form and made Balanchine, already a genius, equal to the greatest artists of the 20th century – Picasso and Stravinsky.

Ellen Sorrin, Director


February 2013

George Balanchine died on April 30, 1983 and he continues to be honored at ballet companies and schools all over the world with performances of his ballets.  In a fast-changing, short-attention span culture, his work continues to be relevant and as modern as the day it was created.  To think that Apollo was choreographed in 1928 and Prodigal Son in 1929, and that these two ballets are among the most performed ballets in his repertory today is a testament to his genius and vision.  Serenade, his most performed ballet, was choreographed in 1934 as an exercise for students, in Balanchine’s own words “to teach them how to be on the stage”. He said he wasn’t even trying to create anything.  It was first performed on an outdoor stage at the estate of the family Felix Warburg and became iconic almost immediately.  It is used as a teaching tool for students in ballet schools and performed on stages such as New York City Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet.

It has been asked by today’s critics and others if Balanchine has made it impossible for ballet choreography to develop since his work was of such brilliance.  Choreography is the only art form that has had such few geniuses.  Brilliant painters, sculptors, writers, composers, pianists and actors have been well-documented throughout history, but the list of choreographers who have reached that status are few and far between.  Petipa, Ashton, Bournonville, Tudor, Robbins and Balanchine are names people who follow ballet would acknowledge as the historic giants of our world.  In contemporary ballet, there are promising talents, but it remains to be seen who will achieve the stature of a genius.

Balanchine choreographed 425 ballets and other dances (Broadway shows, movies, even elephants for the circus).  The majority of those works are lost, but nearly 100 are still with us.  We encourage company and school directors to look at some of the works that are least-performed but which are an integral part of the genius of George Balanchine.

He had a long creative life and his gifts to us continue to live in the bodies of the dancers who dance them and in the repetiteurs who pass them to generations of dancers.

Ellen Sorrin, Director


September 2012

Sometimes a writer, critic or otherwise, says something that is so beautifully stated and so true that it can take your breath away.  This is true of what Ismene Brown from the  wrote of San Francisco’s recent performances of Balanchine’s Divertimento #15 at Sadlers Wells.‑francisco‑ballet‑balanchine‑liang‑wheeldon‑sadlers‑wells‑theatre

It is truly a moving tribute and for any of us who have watched Divertimento #15 over the years, truer words could not be written.

Ellen Sorrin, Director


May 2012

We get emails from time to time, and increasingly more often lately, asking us why Balanchine choreography is not more available on DVDs or on the internet for the public to view.

When a program is produced, the Balanchine Trust licenses the rights for a period of time to the producing organization, be it Dance in America, Live from Lincoln Center, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation or a commercial entity, such as HBO or Time Warner which made the film of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ™.

The Trust is not in a position to make this material available to the public, as the choreographic rights that the Trust licenses gives the producer the right to copyright the program.  Although the underlying rights and copyrights to the choreography remain with the Trust, we do not hold the rights to the program.

When a program is released, either on television or in movie theaters, the producer has already licensed the intellectual property rights from the composer/publisher (if the music is not in the public domain), the choreographer and the designers.  The director, dancers, orchestra, conductor and other individuals who are hired for the recording of the program have contracts which require that their permission is given, and additional compensation paid, if the program is to be released on DVD, online or in another format following the initial broadcast.

For programs made today, all possible forms of distribution (broadcast, movie, DVD, internet and streaming) are addressed in the initial contracts, so the producing entity has the right to distribute the program without having to go back to the rights holders and other stakeholders described above.  In the past, because no one could predict what the future would be, and because no one had the money even if they did intuit the future, rights were licensed for a period of years and usually solely for broadcast in domestic and foreign markets.  There was no contract language in place for other distribution outlets, which is why most of what you watch on media sites is the older programs, which are not available on DVD or legitimately on the internet.

We hope this explains the challenges of making material available.  We are supportive of programs being re-released and made available, and we hope that producers will be able to find the resources to make it possible.

We thank those of us who have written and hope that you understand the complexity of the issues.

Ellen Sorrin, Director


January 2012

I hope the New Year finds you well.  As we embark on 2012, the Trust has launched a private YouTube channel for ballet company and school artistic directors to be able to view Balanchine ballets they may want to consider for their companies and schools.

It has become challenging for a number of reasons to send out tapes of ballets and this seems to be a good solution.  It allows directors to have access to the ballets for a limited period of time, to be able to have colleagues view the ballets and to determine which ballets might be suitable for their companies and schools before the Trust is contacted.

There are a number Balanchine ballets that are not performed often and we would be most interested in having them considered for teaching and performance.  If you would like to discuss possibilities, please be in touch with the Trust and we would be glad to assist you.  If you know which ballets you would be interested in viewing, let us know by email and we will send instructions for access.

We hope the private YouTube channel will provide you with a new resource to expand your familiarity of Balanchine ballets, as there are nearly eighty that are available to be staged.

Have a good month.

Ellen Sorrin, Director


December 2011

It’s Nutcracker season again and all over the world, ballet companies are getting ready for this holiday tradition.  Its music we seem to welcome again as an old friend, but we are also glad to see it go.

This year, the Royal Danish Ballet, under the artistic direction of Nikolaj Hübbe, will be premiering George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ on December 3rd.  Nikolaj danced for many years as a principal at New York City Ballet, and grew to love the Balanchine version of this classic story.  Now that he is heading up the Royal Danish Ballet, he is bringing this exquisitely danced story to his fellow Danes.  We’ll be there to cheer.

On December 13th, New York City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ will be presented live from Lincoln Center to movie theaters around the world in HD.  It will be broadcast at 6pm EST time, so check online for a theater in your area and the time of broadcast.  It is being produced by Live from Lincoln Center and distributed to theaters by Fathom Entertainment.  The next night, December 14th, it will be broadcast live from the stage to a television audience on Live from Lincoln Center on PBS.  The time of broadcast from the theater will be 8pm, but check your local listings in case there is a time delay in your area.

Don’t miss the live performances of the Nutcracker in your cities and towns, but if you haven’t seen Balanchine’s Nutcracker, add that to your holiday tradition this year.

Have a good holiday season!

Ellen Sorrin, Director


November 2011

As The George Balanchine Trust launches its updated website, which we hope you will find visually more compelling and easier to navigate, we are reminded of a time when there were no websites and communication happened by telephone, then fax and now by email, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  Being and staying in touch is easier than ever.  Keeping track of it all is more difficult.

We have come amazingly far with technology and yet the staging of a Balanchine ballet requires the hands-on presence and attention of a repetiteur, just as Mr. Balanchine taught his ballets to several generations of dancers.  There are no computer programs or definitive films or magic elixirs available to instruct and inspire the dancers.  That is now done by the repetiteurs, all dancers themselves who were trained, rehearsed, and coached by Mr. Balanchine.  They continue to provide the artistic interpretation and impart the wisdom they learned from him to the ballets they stage.  Without them his ballets would have no life.  We are forever grateful and indebted to them for their passion and commitment to the legacy of Balanchine.

Just like technology, the years bring changes, and we are entering an era where the teaching of the ballets is being passed to yet another generation, those who learned the ballets from the dancers who worked with Mr. Balanchine.  As we begin to include this generation in the teaching of his ballets, they in turn will have to call upon their experiences of working with the Balanchine repetiteurs to continue the tradition of handing down the teaching of Balanchine ballets to the next generation.

His ballets live today because they have been rehearsed and cared for these nearly three decades since his death in 1983 by the dancers who served his choreographic vision, then and now.

Ellen Sorrin, Director