American and Russian artists, scholars, critics, and arts administrators will celebrate the centennial of Balanchine's birth in the city of his youth with papers, interviews, discussions, videos, and a master class exploring the great choreographer's life and work.

NEW YORK CITY - The George Balanchine Foundation, in collaboration with the Mariinsky Theatre, the Hermitage Theatre, and the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg, is organizing a four-day international symposium, "Balanchine: Past, Present, and Future," that will be the outstanding scholarly event of the Balanchine centennial year. The symposium, which will take place at the historic Hermitage Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, coincides with the opening of the exhibition A Century of Balanchine at the Hermitage Museum and a week-long festival of Balanchine performances at the Mariinsky Theatre. The symposium was made possible by a $30,000 grant from The Trust for Mutual Understanding and an anonymous donor.

The symposium has been organized by Lourdes Lopez, Executive Director of The George Balanchine Foundation and a former Principal Dancer of the New York City Ballet, and Pavel Gershenzon, Assistant Director of the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet. "George Balanchine is one of those figures in 20th century art that firmly connects Russian and American culture, but until now the two countries have explored his legacy in isolation from each other," says Ms. Lopez who conceived the symposium. "Balanchine was a graduate of the St. Petersburg Imperial School, a Mariinsky Theatre dancer and a student of Petrograd Conservatory. It therefore seemed important, on the hundredth anniversary of Balanchine's birth, for The George Balanchine Foundation to convene a conference exploring his genius in the place where Balanchine began his glorious career. I was thrilled when the Mariinsky Theatre embraced the idea of this symposium with such enthusiasm and offered their full support."

"This is the first time that Russian, American, and British scholars have held a joint symposium on a ballet subject," says Lynn Garafola, Professor of Dance at Barnard College, who assisted Ms. Lopez in assembling the program. "The symposium takes Balanchine home to the city where he grew up and created his earliest works. For Americans this is an extraordinary opportunity to see his work within the context of Russian dance traditions, past as well as present. For Russians, the symposium offers the equally extraordinary opportunity to see how Balanchine's art was transformed by America."

"Balanchine is so celebrated in his homeland now, but it was a long time coming," says Francia Russell, Artistic Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet and a former soloist with the New York City Ballet. Russell taught Mariinsky dancers their first Balanchine ballets in 1988, when they knew next to nothing about his work, and worked with them again in 1998, when they danced it with "joy." Russell is missing the opening of her own company's season in order to attend the St. Petersburg symposium. She looks forward to seeing how Balanchine's ballets have taken root in Russia. "The differences that Russian dancers bring to Balanchine's works are wonderful--strong personalities, wonderful carriage, open backs, expressive arms. Going to this symposium completes a circle for me. I just couldn't imagine not being there."

The symposium opens with a screening of the 1984 documentary Balanchine, directed by Merrill Brockway and produced by Judy Kinberg. It continues with sessions on "Balanchine in Russia," "Balanchine in America," "Balanchine the Musician," "Balanchine and the Future of Ballet," and "Dancing Balanchine." Merrill Ashley, a former Principal Dancer of the New York City Ballet who is representing the company at the symposium, will conduct a Balanchine master class for Russian dancers. Screenings of Balanchine-related videos will take place throughout the symposium, with the tapes being donated to Mariinsky.

The Russian participants include the noted Moscow dance critic Vadim Gayevsky, the Russian dance historian Elizabeth Souritz, the musicologist Olga Manulkina, and Oleg Levenkov, whose forthcoming book will be the first major study of Balanchine published in Russia, and two younger critics, Maria Ratanova and Inna Skliarevkaya. In addition to Pavel Gershenzon, the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet will be represented by Artistic Director Makharbek Vaziev, Principal Conductor Mikhail Agrest, Ballet Master Yuri Fateyev, former Principal Dancer Tatiana Terkhova (now on the faculty of the Vaganova Academy), and current Principal Dancers to be announced. Alexei Ratmansky, Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet, will also participate.

The roster of American and British participants includes Nancy Reynolds, Director of Research, The George Balanchine Foundation; dance historians Stephanie Jordan, Tim Scholl, Beth Genné, and Lynn Garafola; dance critics Elizabeth Kendall and Robert Gottlieb; musicologist Stephen Walsh, and Francis Mason, the editor of Ballet Review. Representing the New York City Ballet, apart from Merrill Ashley, are Hugo Fiorato, the company's Conductor Emeritus, former Principal Dancer Stephanie Saland, and Principal Dancer Peter Boal, who will also take part in the festival performances. Completing the list of American and British participants are Barbara Horgan, Administrator and Trustee of The George Balanchine Trust, and Stewart Kershaw, Music Director and Conductor, Pacific Northwest Ballet, in addition to Lourdes Lopez and Francia Russell.

"Balanchine: Past, Present, and Future" coincides with other tributes to Balanchine in St. Petersburg, including an exhibition at the Hermitage, "A Century of Balanchine", which opens on June 2. On the evenings of June 2 through June 7 Balanchine works, including Apollo, Concerto Barocco, Serenade, The Four Temperaments, and Jewels, will be danced by the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and the Perm Ballet as part of St. Petersburg's "White Nights Festival."

The George Balanchine Foundation gratefully acknowledges the support of the Mariinsky Theatre, the Hermitage Museum, and the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg.

The George Balanchine Foundation is a non-profit corporation founded in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further the work and aesthetic of George Balanchine, while supporting high standards of excellence in dance and the related arts.

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