Even the most famous choreographers remain the silent stars behind some of America's most cherished masterpieces. Below you will find information about just a few of these dance geniuses, who not only provided us with the best in physical art form, but have inspired us to create and pursue our own passions and dreams as well.
You can hardly begin to discuss the history of American ballet without mentioning this New York great. Although he was born and raised in Russia, the bulk of Balanchine's career met success here in the states. He began dancing at the age of nine through the Imperial Ballet School, and choreographed his first work while still a teenager. His choreography was criticized as being too experimental to ever be accepted as mainstream, including then unheard of styles such as dancing in bare feet.
After choreographing for the famous Ballets Russes, he came to America and founded the now famous School of American Ballet, which has been recruiting the most elite of ballerinas ever since. During the 1950s, he staged The Nutcracker in New York City, which has been a holiday tradition all over the nation ever since. Many ballet companies sustain themselves off of the popular Christmas draw of the Nutcracker, and this ballet continues to woo audiences year after year, inspiring countless young people to begin a career in dance.
Revered as one of the most influential contributors to modern dance, Paul Taylor was born in Pennsylvania and studied at the world renowned Julliard School. He performed at the American Dance Festival in 1952, where he then captured the attention of other modern dance revolutionaries such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey.
He then founded Paul Taylor Dance Company two years later, drawing upon his own performance experience as a member of Balanchine and Graham's companies, and today Paul Taylor Dance Company remains one of the best modern dance troupes in the world. His routines are known for their body gestures rather than typical dance steps, and he has even collaborated with painters to bring more "human" elements into his works. His masterpieces continue to amaze the dance world with their originality and use of every day movements, and many agree his company is uncomparable.
Alvin Ailey is another individual heralded as a modern dance genius. He was born in Texas in the 1930s, and went on to train with Lester Horton. His choreography finds its roots in his early Texas memories, namely the spiritual and gospel background in which he was raised, producing some of the most acclaimed African-American focused works in existence.
Having constructed 79 ballets during his life, he made sure that his dance company was not just an outlook for his work alone. His dancers continue to both embrace past works while showcasing up and coming talent as well. In total, over 200 pieces by over 70 choreographers have been performed through the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Agnes De Mille
Forbidden by her parents to ever take dance lessons, young Agnes lucked out when her sister was instructed by a doctor to take dance class to cure her impossibly flat feet. Agnes got the opportunity to take classes as well, but it was soon realized that she lacked a firm level of flexibility or technique. Unfortunately, classical ballet was the most mainstream form of dance at the time, and Agnes was sure she was out of opportunities.
However, she continued to instruct herself by watching movie stars performing on the big screen, and soon she was choreographing for Hollywood herself. She first created dances for the 1934 version of Cleopatra, however the routines were left on the cutting room floor. Eventually she did find her niche in Hollywood, choreographing the famous dream sequence in Oklahoma!, as well as other noted musicals such as Brigadoon and Carousel.
She eventually founded the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre, which was later renamed and enjoyed considerable success. Agnes is still noted today as being a successful dancer and choreographer who seemed destined to be anything but.
Countless dancers who do not necessarily have the right "look" or "body" continue to be inspired by her perseverance and accomplishments.