Robbins, Jerome

Robbins, Jerome

Robbins, Jerome, 1918-98, American choreographer and dancer, b. New York City as Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz. Robbins began his career dancing in musicals (1937). In 1940 he joined the Ballet Theatre and in 1948 became associate artistic director of the New York City Ballet. The first ballet he choreographed, Fancy Free (1944), was expanded into the musical On the Town. Robbins gained distinction as the exuberantly innovative choreographer of such Broadway musicals as High Button Shoes (1947) and The King and I (1951). Ultimately creating an evolved and organic kind of show that was more a work of art than a humble entertainment, he choreographed and directed the musicals Peter Pan (1954), West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). Meanwhile, during the 1940s and 50s he periodically returned to the New York City Ballet, where he created such works as Interplay (1945), Facsimile (1946), The Cage (1951), Fanfare (1953), The Concert (1956), and Moves (1959). Essentially leaving the world of musicals after the enormous success of Fiddler, he returned to the City Ballet and in the following years choreographed such works as Dances at a Gathering (1969), probably his finest ballet; Goldberg Variations (1971); Ives, Songs (1988); and Brandenburg (1997). From 1983 to 1990 Robbins was the City Ballet's co-ballet master in chief with Peter Martins, and many of his 66 ballets continue to be performed by the company.

See biographies by G. Lawrence (2001), D. Jowitt (2004), and A. Vaill (2006); C. Conrad, Jerome Robbins: That Broadway Man, That Ballet Man (2001); R. E. Long, Broadway, The Golden Years (2001).

orig. Jerome Rabinowitz

Jerome Robbins in Fancy Free, 1944.

(born Oct. 11, 1918, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died July 29, 1998, New York City) U.S. dancer, choreographer, and director. He joined Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre) as a dancer in 1940. His first choreographic success was Fancy Free (set to a musical score by Leonard Bernstein), which was expanded into the musical On the Town (1944). He joined the New York City Ballet in 1948 and soon became associate director (1950–59), creating many works for the company. For the Broadway stage he choreographed successful musicals such as The King and I (1951; film, 1956), West Side Story (1957; film, 1961), Gypsy (1959; television, 1993), and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). Returning to the New York City Ballet, he was resident choreographer and ballet master (1969–83) and then codirector with Peter Martins until retiring in 1990. His choreography is marked by a blend of modern, academic, and popular dance styles in a variety of American idioms.

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