Tonight at 9:00 pm, Great Performances broadcasts a performance by the New York City Ballet (NYCB) recorded in Paris. The broadcast features two ballets by George Balanchine, who founded NYCB in 1948: Sonatine, a pas de deux to a piano piece by Maurice Ravel; and Georges Bizet's Symphony in C, a work which impressed Jerome Robbins so much that he supposedly wrote to Balanchine immediately upon seeing it and asked for a job.
Balanchine revolutionized ballet and American dance after coming to America in the 1930s. Having choreographed for Serge Diaghilev's legendary Ballets Russe in the '20s, he founded a new style and school of ballet in America, a country with a weak history in the dance form. In addition to his numerous works for NYCB, he also choreographed for Hollywood and Broadway, working with such eminences as Rodgers and Hart and Vernon Duke.
While NYCB is intimately associated with Balanchine and still performs his choreography, they continue to create innovative new works. Their current resident choreographer is Justin Peck, who was a soloist with NYCB before gaining his current title in 2014, at the age of 27. Despite his youth, he is one of the most admired ballet choreographers in the country. The Joffrey Ballet is currently performing Peck's first major ballet, Year of the Rabbit, to music by Sufjan Stevens, at the Auditorium Theatre (Performances continue through February 26).