The Lyre

The lyre, in a number of different forms, has served as the official symbol of New York City Ballet. It was the favorite instrument of the god Apollo. It represents the classical standards of harmony, form, balance and purity – ideals which the Company continues to define through the timeless art of dance.

Classical Greece

The ancient Greeks regarded music as central to the development of a cultured, well educated citizen. A person was seen as "brave, athletic and cultivated" who displayed skills at arms and possessed some "musical accomplishment." In mythology it is said that Apollo, playing his lyre, defeated the Dionysian satyr in a musical contest, thereby assuring the victory of the measured, civilized, classical Apollonian standards he represented. The lyre was also a popular instrument of the people used to accompany performances of the works of the Greek poets and singers and through time became the universal symbol of musical theater.

Classical Dance

In his official biography of George Balanchine, Bernard Taper illuminated the guiding aesthetic principles of New York City Ballet. He revealed that the composer Igor Stravinsky regarded classical dancing as "the perfect expression of the Apollonian principle." For Balanchine however, somewhat ironically, the "supreme art" was music. Balanchine regarded his collaboration with Stravinsky on the creation of the ballet Apollon Musagete (today the work is known as Apollo), in 1928, as a major event in his artistic development. With it, by embracing the classical virtues admired by Stravinsky and symbolized by the ancient god of clarity, music and light, the choreographer found the way to unite the traditions of classical Russian ballet and the spare austerity of modernism, which led to the evolution of the new classicism that is the hallmark of New York City Ballet. In his ballet, Balanchine depicts Apollo as the leader of three muses, the goddesses who represent the different arts. One of the muses, Terpsichore, through her expressive gestures and rhythm, reveals dance to the world. She is chosen by Apollo for the place of honor beside him, thereby symbolically uniting the mythical creative inspiration for music and dance.