George Balanchine’s name is synonymous with ballet. We know him as a dancer in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union before his flight to the West in the early 1920s. After joining Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as an innovative choreographer, Balanchine soon realised that moving to the United States would enable him to fulfil his creativity and ambition. In 1934 he founded the New York City Ballet, remaining its prime choreographer and ballet master until his death in 1983. He combined the classical aesthetic he learned at St Petersburg’s rigorous Imperial Ballet School with daring modernism. Collaborations with composers such as Stravinsky ensured that his ballets would remain icons of contemporary dance.