100 Dance Treasures

Jerome Robbins Menu

Jerome Robbins, Photo by United Artists

Pictured: Robbins in rehearsal for West Side Story (1960), the film version of his best-known work, which
captured in dance the energy and danger of urban street gangs.(Photograph by United Artists; from the Dance
Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.)

In "Cool" from West Side Story (1960), one of his most electrifying dances, Robbins addressed his frequent themes of youthful angst and group dynamics.

The greatest of American-born ballet choreographers and the best choreographer in Broadway's golden years, Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) was born in New York City. His initial training, with Senia Gluck-Sandor and Felicia Sorel at the Dance Center, was in modern dance; only later did he begin studying ballet with Ella Daganova. He danced in a number of musicals, then in 1940 joined Ballet Theatre. Four years later he choreographed Fancy Free, his first ballet and the inspiration for his first Broadway choreographic assignment, On the Town. For the next twenty years Robbins shuttled between ballet and musical theater. In 1949 he joined the New York City Ballet, a forty-year association that led to the creation of dozens of outstanding works, from Afternoon of a Faun (1953) to Dances at a Gathering (1969) and Glass Pieces (1994). He choreographed some of Broadway's finest musicals, including The King and I (1951), West Side Story (1957), and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). In 1958 he formed a small company, Ballets: USA, which toured extensively in Europe. Robbins was a generous supporter of the New York Public Library's Dance Collection. www.jeromerobbins.org

Learn more in Jerome Robbins, an essay by Imogen Sara Smith.

Jerome Robbins and Ballets USA/Jump, 1959.  Photo by Philippe Halsman © Halsman Estate.

Pictured: Jerome Robbins in 1959 with his successful but short-lived company, Ballets: USA, which brought
his brand of contemporary, American-flavored dance to an international audience.
Photo by Philippe Halsman © Halsman Estate.