Reflecting upon major ballet events in 1952, we can see how the art has progressed significantly in the past half century. Currently, more ballets premiere each year now than was the case in the 1950s, and the role of the male ballet dancer is much more prominent in professional companies. More ballet programs are now established for low-income, high-risk children, and the art of classical ballet is more widely accepted in international locales such as China. However, the events that took place in 1952 should not be forgotten, as major companies underwent changes, notable ballets debuted, and successful dance studios opened their doors.
Major Ballet Events in 1952
Below are some highlights of major ballet events that took place in 1952, both stateside and internationally. From studio openings to debuts from major choreographers, it was a rich time to be involved in the world of ballet.
Bayou, a ballet created by George Balanchine, premiered on February 21, 1952. It was performed at the City Center of Music and Drama in New York, and featured members of the New York City Ballet. The music is Virgil Thomson's Acadian Songs and Dances - a collection of music composed in the late 1940s.
Toumanova's International Tour
Tamara Toumanova, a Georgian ballet dancer who fled with her parents during the Russian Revolution, grew up in Paris and was discovered by George Balanchine. She was recruited for the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo at the age of thirteen, and went on to have an illustrious career. This included an international tour with the London Ballet in 1952, in which she was noted as a captivating guest artist.
Schools and Companies Established
In 1952, the now famous Joffrey Ballet was founded. Both a school and dance company located in Chicago, alumni include students such as Patrick Swayze. The school was founded in 1952, the company in 1956; since then, notable choreographers and dancers including Twyla Tharp and Paul Taylor have trained with the Joffrey Ballet.
The West Australian Ballet was founded by a former Ballet Russes dancer in 1952. The company worked at an amateur level until it first received government funding in 1969, and is today one of the most prolific dance companies in Australia. Their programs include community dance events that reach young audiences at primary schools, opportunities for disadvantaged individuals to attend dress rehearsals of major ballet performances, and a special scholarship program for teen prodigies.
1952 was also the year that ballet made a splash in Montreal. Ludmilla Chiriaeff, who founded Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, made history in this year when she brought ballet to a city that had barely even heard of it prior. Her dancers performed frequently on Canadian television, and the company went on to revolutionize Canadian dance education.
A Comedic Twist
In 1952, even Lucille Ball gave a nod to ballet by making it the focus of a sitcom episode. On the famous show I Love Lucy, Ricky has an opening for a ballet dancer, and Lucy enrolls in ballet lessons in order to work her way onto the stage with her husband. The episode went down in sitcom history for Lucy's hilarious scene at the ballet barre, and inadvertently sparked an audience interest in ballet. This episode was popular enough that the ballet clip can still be found on YouTube today, as well as via DVD sales and cable TV reruns.
A Company Transformed
An illustrious career as a ballet director began for Lew Christensen in 1952. He was appointed the director of the San Francisco Ballet in that year, and remained in the role until 1984. Christensen has gone down in dance memory as the driving force between San Francisco Ballet's now international recognition. He choreographed over 110 works for San Francisco, and some are still performed today. He launched the first national and international tours of the San Francisco Ballet, officially putting it on the map as a major dance company.
Major ballet events in 1952 launched many opportunities and educational experiences that still endure today. Generations of ballet dancers have come out of decisions made and risks taken in the early 1950s, and this is a year that is still considered to be of high importance by many dance enthusiasts.