Jerome Robbins was a choreographer
and dancer. He is widely considered to be America's greatest choreographer.
Born Jerome Rabinowitz in New York and raised in New Jersey, he began his career acting in Yiddish theater. He joined Ballet Theatre when it was founded in 1940 and quickly became celebrated as an interpreter of great character roles., especially Petrouchka in Michel Fokine's ballet of that name.
The turning point in his career came when he teamed up with Leonard Bernstein in 1944 and conceived the idea for the ballet, Fancy Free, and performed it at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was the greatest popular and critical success in American ballet at that time. It told the story of three sailors on shore leave who meet up with two girls on a summer evening in New York City. It differred from traditional ballet in that the women wore high heels rather than pointe shoes and the men sailor suits rather than tights. It also drew on popular dance forms from the times such as the Lindy and the Samba. This style was to become a Robbin's trademark, the weaving of classical tradition with contemporary times.
Fancy Free was transformed into a musical - On the Town and ultimately a movie. This further helped Robbins career as he moved between the theater, an occassional film and ballet.
In 1953, during the Red Scare, Robbins came under some profound difficulties with the House Un-American Activities Committee. When called upon to answer questions regarding his membership from 1943 to 1947 in the Communist Party, he implicated eight others as party members. A black mark on an otherwise incredible career.
In theater, some of the credits attached to his name as choreographer and director are:
The King and I - 1951
Peter Pan - 1954
Bells Are Ringing - 1956
West Side Story -1957
Gypsy - 1959
Fiddler on the Roof - 1964
He formed his own company , Ballet USA from 1958 to 1961. In 1964, he returned to work with the New York City Ballet where he worked along side, and to some degree, in the shadow of legendary George Balanchine