In 1939, a group of dancers, choreographers, and producers associated with Russian-born Mikhail Mordkin's ballet company joined together to establish a new, innovative dance company they called Ballet Theatre. Its aim was to bring a fresh, American style to the art form. The company premiered in New York City on January 11, 1940, to great critical acclaim. Its repertory included not only nineteenth-century classical ballets, but also fifteen works by eleven living choreographers, including Bronislava Nijinska from Russia, Antony Tudor from England, and Eugene Loring from the United States. Early in its organization, Ballet Theatre—renamed American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in 1957—began to tour, representing the United States both domestically and internationally, bringing its varied repertory to a broad audience. Despite facing financial hardship and occasional crises of creative vision, at its core ABT has remained committed to seeking artistic diversity. To honor the success of ABT in creating a truly American approach to the art of ballet, in 2006, the U.S. Congress recognized ABT as “America's National Ballet Company.”
This exhibition highlights American Ballet Theatre's vibrant seventy-five year history with objects drawn primarily from the American Ballet Theatre Collection at the Library of Congress, as well as from the Library's extensive dance and music collections, including the Leonard Bernstein Collection, Judith Chazin-Bennahum Collection, Peggy Clark Papers, Aaron Copland Collection, Bronislava Nijinska Collection, and the Oliver Smith Collection.