Back Ruthanna Boris, “I Remember Balanchine”

Ruthanna Boris (1917–2007)
From Dance in America: A Reader’s Anthology

Publicity shot for Serenade, George Balanchine’s first ballet to be performed in the United States. Students of the School of American Ballet debuted the piece in June 1934 at the Warburg Estate in Greenburgh, 25 miles north of Manhattan. From left to right: Annabelle Lyon, Ruthanna Boris, Helen Leitch, Holly Howard, and Elise Reiman.

“George Balanchine permeates American dance, even now,” writes editor and dance critic Mindy Aloff. “One reason may be that he had the biggest view of it.”

John Martin, who became the first full-time dance critic for The New York Times in 1928 and worked there for thirty-five years, was similarly effusive: “The bringing to Balanchine to America in 1933 was an event of more considerable moment than anyone realized at the time.” But during the choreographer’s early years in America, Martin was often scornful and dismissive. “While every region is entitled to whatever decadences it pleases there is nothing to be gained by our importing them,” he wrote in March 1935, after the new American Ballet completed its first season in New York. “With all due respect to George Balanchine, the great need of the company is American direction. If this sounds like flag-waving, put it down to the basic idea of the organization and either accept or discount it at that point.”

One of the pieces performed during that historic season was Serenade, Balanchine’s first ballet to be performed in the United States. Students at the School of American Ballet (also cofounded by Balanchine) debuted the Serenade the previous year at the Warburg Estate in Greenburgh, twenty-five miles north of Manhattan. And one of the students in that debut was legendary dancer Ruthanna Boris, who recalls her years working with Balanchine in the short memoir we present as our Story of the Week selection.

Read “I Remember Balanchine” by Ruthanna Boris

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