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What is the American Ballet Theatre?

The American Ballet Theatre is an elite ballet company.
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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2014
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The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) was founded in 1940 and is considered one of the elite ballet companies in the world. Located in New York City, It performs for more than 600,000 people each year and has danced in more than 126 cities and 42 countries. In 2000, American Ballet Theatre visited China and performed in both Shanghai and Hong Kong. The company also had the rare opportunity to dance in Taipei and Singapore.

Since its founding, ABT's mission has been to cultivate a repertoire from the past while encouraging the creation of new works by young, innovative choreographers. The company strives to present groundbreaking ballets while giving a respectful nod to the past. Famous choreographers such as Agnes de Mille, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and Jerome Robbins have all created works for the world-renowned company.

The company's first Artistic Directors were Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. They directed the company's activities from 1940 to 1980. Under their leadership, American Ballet Theatre's stable of ballets included works ranging from timeless 19th century classics such as Swan Lake to more modern ballets.

In 1980, the famous Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov became Artistic Director. Baryshnikov led the company so that their classical tradition was strengthened and refined. Under his leadership, countless classical ballets were staged, reworked, and polished.

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In 1990, there was a changing of the guard with the emergence of Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith as Artistic Directors for American Ballet Theatre. Hermann and Smith continued ABT's journey toward the future while still cultivating classical ballet traditions of the past. Kevin McKenzie, former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, was appointed Artistic Director of the company in 1992. McKenzie furthers the mission of ABT as he seeks to steer the company toward new works while maintaining classical ballet traditions.

The American Ballet Theatre conducts various educational and outreach programs for the people in the New York metropolitan area. One worthy program is the Young People's Ballet Workshop. In this workshop, the company uses lecture-demonstrations to educate school children about ballet.

Each year, 8,000 students attend the workshop at the Metropolitan Opera House. The workshop introduces children to ballet, cultivates appreciation for the performing arts, and educates future ballet patrons. Kids participating in the Young People's Ballet Workshop learn a little about ballet history, dance technique, and behind-the-scenes tidbits about staging a ballet.

The Peter Jay Sharp Introduction for Dance is another American Ballet Theatre educational program where over 10,000 free tickets are provided to local school children in surrounding New York City areas. Each child receives two tickets so that a parent or guardian can accompany him. This complimentary-ticket program makes attending a dance performance possible for families who may not have the resources to do so.

One of the world's greatest ballet companies, the American Ballet Theatre performs a variety of works in both the classical and modern tradition. It has performed in every U.S. state and danced in 42 countries, performing for an average of 600,000 people each year. Perhaps this is why the American Ballet Theatre is considered one of the foremost dance companies in the world.

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