American Ballet Theatre, fiftieth anniversary exhibition poster, 1990, designed by Arnoldi American Ballet Theatre, fiftieth anniversary exhibition poster, 1990. Designed by Arnoldi. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dance Division.


Founded in 1940 by Lucia Chase and Richard Pleasant as a showcase for American-trained classical talent, American Ballet Theatre (or Ballet Theatre, as it was known until 1957) is today one of the world's outstanding companies. ABT's repertory has always been eclectic. This was especially true during the 1940s, when the company produced a host of modern works, including such classics as Antony Tudor's Pillar of Fire, Agnes de Mille's Fall River Legend, and Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free. A new chapter in ABT's history opened in 1966 with David Blair's staging of the full-length Swan Lake. His Giselle followed in 1968, and in 1971 Erik Bruhn restaged La Sylphide. The refurbished repertory brought a galaxy of new stars to ABT, including Cynthia Gregory, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, and Natalia Makarova, who added La Bayadère to the company's offerings, while postmodern choreographer Twyla Tharp scored a hit with Push Comes to Shove. During the 1980s, when Baryshnikov served as artistic director, The Sleeping Beauty entered the repertory, along with Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet. Under his successor, Kevin McKenzie, a new generation of stars has come to the fore, including an exciting contingent from Latin America. www.abt.org

Learn more in American Ballet Theatre, an essay by Dawn Lille.