Lew Christensen


Lew Christensen

Lew Christensen (1909-1989) was a ballet dancer, choreographer and director for many companies. He was largely associated with George Balanchine in addition to The San Francisco Ballet, which he directed from 1952 – 1984. Other companies Christensen was a part of include Ballet Caravan, directed by Lincoln Kirstein, and Ballet Society, directed by Kirstein and Balanchine. [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen Brothers." "International Encyclopedia of Dance". Vol. 2. ed. Selma Jeanne Cohen. 1998. 160-162. ]

Early Life and Training

Lew Christensen was born May 6, 1909 in Brigham, Utah, to a family with roots in dance and music. His grandfather, Lars Christensen, who emigrated from Denmark, taught folk and social dances [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen Brothers." "International Encyclopedia of Dance." Vol. 2. ed. Selma Jeanne Cohen. 1998. 160. ] . Lew was raised a Mormon, and this upbringing informed his latter career with of a sense of focusing on propriety. [http://books.google.com/books?id=A6HhwJhdcpIC&pg=PA385&lpg=PA385&dq=Lew+Christensen,+Mormon&source=web&ots=iPnQjockGk&sig=n1zSKbnuQD6spH785klD9i7qTaM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA388,M1]

At the age of ten, Lew began studying dance with his uncles and music with his father. He was also taught early ballet technique by Stefano Mascagno, an Italian teacher. His brother Willam started Lew and their third dancing brother, Harold, in vaudeville. In addition to small vaudeville shows, the three brothers landed jobs in the Broadway musical "The Great Waltz", during which time Lew Christensen became a student at Balanchine's new School of American Ballet. Later in 1935, he joined the Metropolitan Opera’s American Ballet Ensemble with Harold. (For further information about Lew's relation to Balanchine, see Dancing with Balanchine). [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen Brothers." "International Encyclopedia of Dance." Vol. 2. ed. Selma Jeanne Cohen. 1998. 160-162. ]

Dancing with Balanchine

As soon as Lew Christensen began his training, he received special attention from George Balanchine, who recognized his talent. Among Balanchine’s first lead male dancers, Christensen danced principal roles, receiving much praise for his lead roles in "Orpheus and Eurydice" and "Apollon Musagete" [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen Brothers." "International Encyclopedia of Dance." Vol. 2. ed. Selma Jeanne Cohen. 1998. 160. ] . Christensen, the first American to dance Apollo, set a new standard for that role, and was thereafter considered to be America’s first “home grown” significant male dancer [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen, Lew." "International Dictionary of Ballet". Vol. 1. ed. Martha Bremser. 1993. 277. ] .

At the outset of World War II, Lew Christensen was drafted into the United States Army. On return to New York in 1946 he joined Balanchine's and Kirstein’s latest project, Ballet Society--later to be known as the New York City Ballet--where he became a ballet master. Although considered by many to be the logical heir to Balanchine’s company, Christensen was instead enticed to join his brothers at the San Francisco Ballet in 1948. [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen, Lew." "International Dictionary of Ballet." Vol. 1. ed. Martha Bremser. 1993. 274-277. ]

Ballet Caravan

Ballet Caravan, begun already in 1936 by Kirstein, was intended to provide American ballet dancers with summer employment during off-seasons ["Christensen Brothers." "San Francisco Ballet." 2008. San Francisco Ballet. 24 Mar. 2008 .] . As a member, Lew Christensen was a lead soloist, choreographer, and ballet master until 1940.

Between 1936 and 1941 ballets Christensen choreographed included "Pocahontas" (1936), "Filling Station" (1938), "Charade" (1939), and "Pastorela" (1941). "Filling Station" incorporated Christensen’s vaudeville roots, acrobats, “deadpan humor,” and tap dancing.

With Ballet Caravan Lew Christensen and his wife Gisella Caccialanza toured South American in 1941. [Sowell, Debra. "Christensen, Lew." "International Dictionary of Ballet." Vol. 1. ed. Martha Bremser. 1993. 274-277. ]

San Francisco Ballet

* Associate director in 1949

* Co-director in 1951 (with brother Willam)

* Director 1952-1984

Lew Christensen transformed the San Francisco Ballet to an internationally recognized neoclassical (revival of classical art forms) company ["Christensen Brothers." "San Francisco Ballet." 2008. San Francisco Ballet. 24 Mar. 2008 .] . Although he joined the San Francisco Ballet in 1949, Christensen continued to act as ballet master for the New York City Ballet until 1950. After becoming co-director of the San Francisco company in 1951, he kept a good relationship between it and NYC Ballet. In 1952, on his brother Willam's departure to establish the ballet program at the University of Utah, Lew became Director of company. For the San Francisco Ballet he choreographed over 110 works, several of which remain in repertoire. He also brought impressive choreography from Balanchine to the company. With Lew Christensen as director, San Francisco Ballet made it first tours nationally and internationally and received much acclaim. ["Christensen Brothers." "San Francisco Ballet". 2008. San Francisco Ballet. 24 Mar. 2008 .]

References

External links

* [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0D12F7385F0C738DDDA90994DC484D81 NY Times obituary October 10, 1984]


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  • Christensen (surname) — Christensen Danish pronunciation: [ˈkʁɛstn̩sn̩], is a Danish (and Norwegian) patronymic surname, literally meaning son of Christen, a sideform of Christian. The spelling variant Kristensen has identical pronunciation. Christensen is the… …   Wikipedia

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