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Georgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze, better known as George Balanchine, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1904. The son of a composer, he studied ballet at the Imperial School, graduating with honors in 1921. For the next few years, Balanchine performed with the corps de ballet of the State Theater of Opera and Ballet, while continuing his studies at the Petrograd Conservatory of Music. This extensive training later allowed him to reduce orchestral scores for the piano, and to communicate easily with composers such as Igor Stravinsky. In the summer of 1924, Serge Diaghilev invited Balanchine to audition for the famous Ballets Russes in Paris. A knee injury prompted his move toward full-time choreography; he served as ballet master until the company disbanded following Diaghilev's death in 1929.
In 1933 Balanchine met Lincoln Kirstein at a London cocktail party. Kirstein was an enthusiastic patron of the arts, and spent his life trying to create a particularly American ballet form. He invited Balanchine to move to New York, and together they founded the School of American Ballet in 1934. Over the years the two men organized several ballet companies-the American Ballet, American Ballet Caravan, Ballet Society, and finally the New York City Ballet in 1948. Now one of the foremost dance companies in the world, it continues to set the standard for ballet in America. Balanchine served as ballet master and principal choreographer for the New York City Ballet until his death at the age of 79.

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