American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the foremost international dance companies of the 20th and 21st cents. It was founded in 1937 as the Mordkin Ballet and reorganized as the Ballet Theatre in 1940 under the direction (1940–80) of Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. It became the American Ballet Theatre in 1956. Its repertoire has included newly staged classical ballets and innovative modern dance works, many concerned with specifically American themes. Most of the company's seasons have been presented in New York City, but it has also toured throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. In 1960 ABT became the first U.S. ballet company to dance in the Soviet Union.
George Balanchine, Adolph Bolm, Michel Fokine, Léonide Massine, and Bronislava Nijinska staged works for the company, as did the British choreographer Antony Tudor, who was introduced to the American public with such works as Pillar of Fire (1942) and Romeo and Juliet (1943). Agnes de Mille staged nearly all of her dance works for the company, including Fall River Legend (1948) and The Harvest According (1952). Jerome Robbins's Fancy Free (1944) and Michael Kidd's On Stage (1945) were also created for the company, as were Alvin Ailey's The River (1970) and Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove (1976). Dancers who gained fame or reached their peak with the American Ballet Theatre include Alicia Alonso, Alicia Markova, Erik Bruhn, Nora Kaye, and Natalia Makarova. Mikhail Baryshnikov was artistic director of the company from 1980 to 1990 and was followed in that position by Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith (1990–92) and Kevin McKenzie (1992–).
See A. Olshan, ed, American Ballet Theatre: The First Fifty Years (1989), E. Kay, The American Ballet Theatre: A 25-Year Retrospective (1999); study by C. Payne (1978).
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