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With commissioned music by Igor Stravinsky, and sets and costumes by Isamu Noguchi, Ballet Society presents the premiere of Balanchine's Orpheus at City Center on April 28. Morton Baum, Chairman of the Finance Committee of City Center of Music & Drama, invites Balanchine and Kirstein to establish a permanent ballet company to be called New York City Ballet.

Concerto Barocco
Concerto Barocco
Choreography by George Balanchine
© New York City Ballet
Photo © Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet's first season opens on October 11 with three Balanchine ballets: Concerto Barocco, Orpheus, and Symphony in C. The original roster reads: George Balanchine, Artistic Director; Lincoln Kirstein, General Director; Leon Barzin, Musical Director; Lighting by Jean Rosenthal; Frances Hawkins, General Manager. Principal dancers: Maria Tallchief, Marie-Jeanne, Tanaquil Le Clercq, Beatrice Tompkins, Jocelyn Vollmar, Nicholas Magallanes, Francisco Moncion, Herbert Bliss, and Todd Bolender.


The Company presents its first independent season in January, consisting of 10 performances including Antony Tudor's revival of Time Table (originally created for American Ballet Caravan in 1941), Merce Cunningham's The Seasons, and Lew Christensen's Jinx.

1949 Guests
The Guests
Tanaquil Le Clercq, Jerome Robbins,
and Nicholas Magallanes
Photo © Melton-Pippin
Courtesy of the New York City
Ballet Archives, Ballet Society Collection

In January, Jerome Robbins joins the Company and is named Associate Artistic Director by Balanchine. His first ballet for the Company, The Guests, premieres on January 14.

Melissa Hayden, Yvonne Mounsey, Janet Reed, and Frank Hobi join the company as Principal Dancers.

Barbara Karinska begins her long association with the Company as costume maker and designer.

Firebird premieres in November and Bourrée Fantasque premieres in December, Balanchine's first restudies of ballets that have already become classics.


British choreographer Frederick Ashton is invited to create a new ballet, Illuminations, the first of two works he creates for New York City Ballet.

Fairy Kiss
The Fairy's Kiss
Nicholas Magallanes and Maria Tallchief
(The Dance Collection, New York
Public Library)
Photo © George Platt Lynes

Diana Adams, Hugh Laing, Harold Lang, and Patricia Wilde join the Company as Principal Dancers.

Venturing abroad for the first time, the Company presents a five-week season at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, followed by a three-week tour of the English provinces. Lew Christensen is named Ballet Master.

In February, Balanchine revives Prodigal Son, his last ballet for Diaghilev, and in the same month, Robbins' Age of Anxiety premieres.

In November, Balanchine revives The Fairy's Kiss, first done for American Ballet in 1937.

Frances Hawkins retires as General Manager. Betty Cage assumes the position that she would hold for 35 years.


The Company's first American performances outside of New York take place at the Chicago Civic Opera House from late April to early May.

Ruthanna Boris, Nora Kaye, and André Eglevsky join the Company as Principal Dancers.

Concerto Barocco
Janet Reed, Frank Hobi
Photo © Walter Owen

Antony Tudor creates Lady of the Camellias, his first original ballet for New York City Ballet. In November, he mounts and performs in his earliest work, Lilac Garden.

Jerome Robbins choreographs The Cage, which premieres in June. In the same month, Ruthanna Boris' Cakewalk also premieres.

Balanchine creates Tyl Uienspiegel and his own version of Swan Lake (Act II), with designs by Cecil Beaton. He also revives Apollo, which he originally made for Diaghilev in 1928.

Balanchine's new version of La Valse appears on television, in CBS' first commercial color telecast.

Balanchine eliminates the sets and costumes of Concerto Barocco and The Four Temperaments, and both are now performed in practice clothes. In the future, he will continue to produce ballets on a bare stage with dancers dressed in leotards, to reveal the shape of the choreography and also for considerations of expense.


New ballets by Balanchine, Robbins, Tudor, Ashton, and Boris premiere.

Michael Maule and Roy Tobias are promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer.

The Company makes its debut in continental Europe with a five-month tour, participating in several major festivals. Cities visited are Barcelona, Paris, Florence, Lausanne, Zurich, The Hague, London, Edinburgh, and Berlin.

Filling Station
Filling Station
Stanley Zompakos
Courtesy of New York City Ballet
Archives, Ballet Society Collection
Photo uncredited


After dancing in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the Company makes the first of a continuing series of cross-country tours, performing in Red Rocks, Colorado; the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles (the first of many summer seasons there); and San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House. Under the sponsorship of the International Exchange program of the U.S. Department of State, administered through the American National Theater and Academy (ANTA), the Company appears at Milan's Teatro de la Scala and in Venice, Como, Naples, Rome, Florence, Trieste, Bologna, Genoa, Munich, Stuttgart, and Brussels.

Jacques d'Amboise and Jillana are promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer.

Robbins creates Afternoon of a Faun and Fanfare.

Lew Christensen's Filling Station from Ballet Caravan is added to the repertory. Christensen, now director of San Francisco Ballet, restages his Con Amore for the Company, in exchange for Balanchine's Serenade.

The Rockefeller Foundation awards City Center a grant-in-aid of $100,000 to cover artistic and production costs of new works. It is the largest contribution so far to have been received for the benefit of New York City Ballet.

Nutcracker Scenery
The Nutcracker
1st Act on top; 2nd Act on bottom
Photo uncredited


Balanchine choreographs Western Symphony, Ivesiana, and a full-length version of The Nutcracker. The Company's most lavish ballet to date, Balanchine's The Nutcracker is mounted in February at City Center. The large cast includes 39 children from the School of American Ballet. This is the first of a number of ballets that will employ students.

Special holiday seasons are devoted to Balanchine's The Nutcracker, thus beginning a holiday tradition that will be emulated by many ballet companies across the country. Its popularity provides major support for New York City Ballet through the coming years of growth and increasing expenses.

During the summer the Company appears for the first time in Seattle.


ANTA sponsors a summer tour of Europe, which includes Monte Carlo, Marseilles, Lyons, Florence, Rome, Bordeaux, Lisbon, Paris, Lausanne, Zurich, Stuttgart. Amsterdam, and The Hague.

Beginning this year, City Center initiates annual three-month winter seasons running from November or December to January or February of the following year.


Robbins choreographs The Concert, which premieres in March.
Company members perform Balanchine's new Divertimento No. 15 in May at the bicentennial Mozart Festival at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut. Divertimento No. 15 then enters the New York City Ballet repertory.

A 10-week European tour beginning in August encompasses Salzburg, Vienna, Zurich, Venice, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Cologne, Copenhagen, and Stockholm.

George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky

Photo © Martha Swope


Balanchine works closely with Stravinsky on the structure of a commissioned score for Agon, which premieres in December.

Reactivated as a sponsor of new works with gifts from individuals, Ballet Society underwrites ballets by Todd Bolender, John Butler, and Francisco Moncion.

Allegra Kent is promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer.

In Montreal, the Canadian Broadcasting Company makes the first films of New York City Ballet works.

The Company makes its first appearance in Philadelphia.

The first full-length television version of Balanchine's The Nutcracker is broadcast on CBS-TV's Seven Lively Arts program.


Under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State and ANTA, the Company embarks upon a five-month tour of Japan, Australia, and the Philippines.

Domestic appearances take place in Indiana and Michigan. The Swedish choreographer Birgit Cullberg restages her dramatic ballet Medea; its cast includes French ballerina Violette Verdy, a new Principal Dancer.

Lotte Lenya, who sang in the first version of Balanchine's The Seven Deadly Sins for Les Ballets 1933, appears in his new production for New York City Ballet.

Balanchine choreographs Gounod Symphony and Stars and Stripes, both of which premiere in January.

Balanchine stages a special television version of The Nutcracker for CBS-TV's Playhouse 90 in which he performs the role of Herr Drosselmeyer.

Balanchine implements alphabetical listing of Principal Dancers and Soloists.

Robert Irving, of England's Royal Ballet, assumes the post of Musical Director.


The year begins with a performance of Stars and Stripes at the inauguration of New York's Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller in Albany. At the invitation of Kirstein, the Gagaku troupe of musicians and dancers from the Imperial Household of Japan appear as guests during the Spring Season.

Episodes, the collaboration between Martha Graham and Balanchine, is presented in May.

In August, the Company makes the first of its many summer appearances at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois.

Edward Villella and Jonathan Watts are promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer.