American Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the great dance
companies in the world. Few ballet companies equal ABT for its combination
of size, scope, and outreach. Recognized as a living national treasure
since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours the United States,
performing for more than 600,000 people, and is the only major cultural
institution to do so. It has also made more than 30 international
tours to 42 countries as perhaps the most representative American
ballet company and has been sponsored by the State Department of
the United States on many of these engagements..
When American Ballet Theatre was launched in 1939, the aim was to
develop a repertoire of the best ballets from the past and to encourage
the creation of new works by gifted young choreographers, wherever
they might be found. Under the direction of Lucia Chase and Oliver
Smith from 1940 to 1980, the Company more than fulfilled that aim.
The repertoire, perhaps unmatched in the history of ballet, includes
all of the great full-length ballets of the nineteenth century,
such as Swan Lake, The
Sleeping Beauty and Giselle,
the finest works from the early part of this century, such as Apollo,
Les Sylphides, Jardin
aux Lilas and Rodeo, and acclaimed contemporary masterpieces
such as Airs, Push
Comes to Shove and Duets. In
acquiring such an extraordinary repertoire, ABT has commissioned
works by all of the great choreographic geniuses of the 20th century:
George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille
and Twyla Tharp, among others.
In 1980, Mikhail Baryshnikov became Artistic Director of American
Ballet Theatre, succeeding Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. Under his
leadership, numerous classical ballets were staged, restaged and
refurbished, and the Company experienced a strengthening and refining
of the classical tradition. In 1990, Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith
succeeded Mr. Baryshnikov and immediately established an agenda
that was dedicated to maintaining the great traditions of the past
while aggressively pursuing a vital and innovative future.
In October 1992, former American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer
Kevin McKenzie was appointed Artistic Director. McKenzie, steadfast
in his vision of ABT as “American”, is committed to
maintaining the Company’s vast repertoire, and to bringing
the art of dance theater to the great stages of the world.
Over its nearly 75-year history, the Company has appeared in a total of 136 cities in 43 countries. ABT has appeared in all fifty states of the United States. In keeping with the Company's long-standing commitment to bring the finest in dance to the widest international audience, ABT has recently enjoyed triumphant successes with engagement in Hong Kong, Havana, Moscow and Beijing.
On April 27, 2006, by an act of Congress, American Ballet Theatre
became America’s National Ballet Company®.