PORTLAND – The Maine State Ballet Company will celebrate the 100th birthday of legendary choreographer George Balanchine by performing his ballet “Serenade” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, in Merrill Auditorium.

A Russian-American, Balanchine was born in 1904 and graduated from the St. Petersburg’s Imperial Theatre School before arriving in the United States in 1933. He founded the School of American Ballet in 1934 with a class of 25 students. Balanchine went on to create more than 200 ballets, as well as numerous dances for theater and film, and made the New York City Ballet into one of the finest companies in the world.

Balanchine created an American style of classical ballet, one that reflected the accelerating speed of life in 20th-century cities like New York. His choreography blends classical with modern and is intensely musical, reflecting his early interest in becoming a composer. Balanchine, who died in New York City in 1983, is remembered as a brilliant artist idolized by many of the most famous dancers of his era.

“Serenade,” Balanchine’s first ballet, was choreographed specifically for his students. Set to music by Tchaikovsky, the ballet continues to remain in the New York City Ballet repertoire.

“It was one of Balanchine’s favorites, and is a true study in choreography and design,” says Linda MacArthur-Miele, artistic director and choreographer of the Maine State Ballet. “The patterns in the ballet are unique and kaleidoscopic making it difficult to recreate, but fascinating to watch and to dance.” Miele, a former student and dancer of the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet, studied and performed under Balanchine for 10 years.

Originally, Balanchine had few male dancers, and the ballet is cast mostly for women, making it a popular vehicle for many companies including Maine State Ballet. “Serenade” was first performed in March 1935 and is still considered progressive and challenging today. Miele has been granted the right to stage the famous ballet by the Balanchine Trust, which holds the copyright to all of his ballets.

Miele’s former status as a member of Balanchine’s New York City Ballet Company gave her some leverage, but Maine State Ballet had to prove itself capable of executing the difficult technique.

Also featured will be Maine State Ballet’s production of “Can Can Parisienne.” Choreographed by Miele, the ballet is set during the follies era at the Moulon Rouge in Paris. Offenbach’s score provides the lively inspiration for the comic story.

Proceeds for the Balanchine 100th and “Can Can” will benefit the Adopt-A-Dancer program, which provides financial assistance to dancers .

Merrill Auditorium is in Portland’s City Hall. The auditorium entrance is at 20 Myrtle St. Tickets are $25 and are available through PortTix, (207) 842-0800 or www.porttix.com.

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