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Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) received world renown as a choreographer of ballets created for New York City Ballet, Ballets U.S.A., American Ballet Theatre and other international companies. He received equal acclaim for his work as a director of musicals and plays for Broadway as a director of musicals, as well as a director of movies and television programs. His career as a gifted ballet dancer developed with Ballet Theatre where he danced with special distinction the role of Petrouchka, and character roles in the works of Fokine, Tudor, Massine, Lichine and de Mille, and, of course, his first choreographic sensation Fancy Free (1944). This ballet, followed by Interplay (1945) and Facsimile (1946), was performed by Ballet Theatre, after which he embarked on an enormously successful career as a choreographer and later as a director of Broadway musicals and plays. His first musical, On the Town (1945), was followed by Billion Dollar Baby (1946), High Button Shoes (1947), Look Ma, I’m Dancing (which he co-directed with George Abbott in 1948), Miss Liberty (1949), Call Me Madame (1950) and the ballet The Small House of Uncle Thomas in The King and I (1951). His work continued with Two’s Company (1952), Pajama Game (again co-directed with Abbott in 1954) and Peter Pan (1954), which he directed and choreographed. In the same year, he also directed the opera The Tender Land by Aaron Copland. Two years after that he directed and choreographed Bells Are Ringing (1956), followed by the historic West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959) and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). In 1949, he joined New York City Ballet as Associate Artistic Director with George Balanchine. Among his outstanding works were The Guests (1949), Age of Anxiety (1951), The Cage (1951), The Pied Piper (1951), Afternoon of a Faun (1953), Fanfare (1953) and The Concert (1956). For his own company, Ballets U.S.A. (1958-1962), he created
N. Y. Export: Opus Jazz (1958), Moves (1959) and Events (1961). For American Ballet Theatre’s 25th Anniversary (1965), he staged Stravinsky’s dance cantata, Les Noces, a work of shattering and immense impact. After the triumph of Fiddler on the Roof, Robbins dedicated his energies to creating ballets for New York City Ballet. In 1988 he took a leave of absence to stage Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. In 1990
he resigned from the position of Ballet Master in Chief – which he shared with Peter Martins – to pursue other projects. A partial list of his 54 creations includes: Dances at a Gathering (1969), The Goldberg Variations (1971), Watermill (1972), Requiem Canticles (1972), In G Major (1975), Mother Goose (1975), The Four Seasons (1975), Opus 19/The Dreamer (1975), Glass Pieces (1983), I’m Old Fashioned (1983), Antique Epigraphs (1984), Brahms/Handel (with Twyla Tharp in 1984), In Memory Of… (1985), Ives Songs (1988), 2 & 3 Part Inventions (1994), West Side Story Suite (1995), Brandenburg (1997) and the NYCB premiere of Les Noces (1998). During this extraordinary career, Robbins served on the National Council on the Arts from 1974 to 1980, and the New York State Council on the Arts/Dance Panel from 1973 to 1988. He established and partially endowed the Jerome Robbins Film Archive the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center. His numerous awards and academic honors included the Handel Medallion of the City of New York (1976), the Kennedy Center Honors (1981), three Honorary Doctorates, an honorary membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1985) and in 1988 he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.
Over the last five decades, Robbins brought joy, emotional involvement and humorous pleasure to millions of people, not only in the United States, but throughout the entire world.