In 1933 choreographer George Balanchine and impresario Lincoln Kirstein embarked on an elusive quest to found a ballet company and school in the United States. Though their efforts would eventually result in the creation of the New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet, the first decade of their collaborative efforts was anything but assured. Tracing the tangled histories of two of the most important figures in twentieth-century dance, Balanchine and Kirstein’s American Enterprise offers a fresh perspective on a pivotal period in cultural history. Deeply researched using sources only made available in recent years, the book challenges the mythologies surrounding the early years of the Balanchine-Kirstein enterprise. It also reveals the full extent of Kirstein’s essential role and offers reconstructive analysis of lost works, as well as new and surprising details regarding some of Balanchine’s most iconic ballets, including Serenade, Apollo, and Concerto Barocco. This history involved artists including Richard Rodgers, Martha Graham, George Gershwin, Katherine Dunham, Vera Zorina, and Igor Stravinsky, as well as dozens of lesser known players whose contributions have yet to be fully acknowledged.
Capturing the full sweep of Balanchine and Kirstein’s collaborative work across multiple genres and institutions, this book reveals their partnership in all of its exciting and ungainly complexity, showing how the 1930s Balanchine was not the artist that he would eventually become, and how the same was true of the institutions that he and Kirstein jointly created.