Director, Producer, Performer, Choreographer, Conception, Writer, Source Material, Other
( b. Oct 11, 1918 New York, New York, USA - d. Jul 29, 1998 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Also known as:
Jerome Rabinowitz [Birthname]
Cousin of Jean Handy Engaged to Nora Kaye (a wedding date of April 16, 1951 was announced, however the engagement was broken off) Partner of Buzz Miller (broken off during "Bells Are Ringing") Partner of Tommy Abbott (? - ?)
Jerome Robbins simultaneously became one of 20th-century ballet's greatest choreographers and a towering innovator in Broadway musicals. Mr. Robbins helped to shape the City Ballet's creative profile with daring and brio for half a century through his often startling, always experimental choreography in ballet's classical idiom. At the same time, he enjoyed phenomenal success on Broadway. From 1944 to 1964, Mr. Robbins's golden touch was evident in musicals as disparate as On the Town, The King and I, Gypsy, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.
For all his acclaim on Broadway, Mr. Robbins made it clear that his first love was dance, and ballet in particular. He returned to the commercial theater briefly in 1989 with Jerome Robbins's Broadway, but even this hit was an anthology of dance sequences from past shows. "Dance is about relationships," Mr. Robbins said. Attached to this credo, he imbued his ballets, no matter how plotless, with human insights and emotions that had a universal resonance. Above all, he was a very American choreographer who knew how to distill the spirit of his time.
This genius for capturing the essence of an age was the Robbins signature. It could be sensationally overt in a landmark Robbins musical like West Side Story, with its indelible images of 1950's gang rumbles. But the same gift was even more vividly expressed in any Robbins ballet, beginning with "Fancy Free," an evergreen masterpiece about three sailors on the town during World War II. Starting out in Ballet Theater, Mr. Robbins created "Fancy Free" in 1944 as his first ballet. The score was by a fellow unknown, Leonard Bernstein.
The success of "Fancy Free" catapulted Mr. Robbins into a second, parallel, career on Broadway. Oliver Smith, the ballet's designer, urged Mr. Robbins and Leonard Bernstein to expand the sailors-on-leave theme into a musical comedy. The musical, called On the Town, opened and struck a responsive chord in a war-weary audience that identified with its urban comedy.
Dance became a major component of any Robbins musical. In 1945, he choreographed Billion Dollar Baby, also directed by Abbott, while High Button Shoes (1947) confirmed his ingenuity for period stylization. Look Ma -- I'm Dancing (1948), with a book by Mr. Robbins and directed by him and Abbott, was a takeoff on a touring ballet company. Mr. Robbins choreographed Miss Liberty (1949), Call Me Madam (1950), The King and I (1951) and Two's Company (1952).
Mr. Robbins's integrated vision of musicals became more pronounced in shows when he took over the role of director as well as choreographer. He was co-director of The Pajama Game (1954) with Abbott; he adapted, directed and choreographed Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin (1954), and he directed Bells Are Ringing (1956).
In 1959, he directed and choreographed Gypsy, and in 1964, he served as production supervisor of Funny Girl. But the two most successful musicals of his career were those he conceived, directed and choreographed: West Side Story, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet, in 1957, and Fiddler on the Roof, inspired by Sholom Aleichem's stories, in 1964.
Yet for all his acclaim in show business (which included five Donaldson Awards, four Tonys, two Oscars for the 1961 film version of "West Side Story" and an Emmy for a televised version of "Peter Pan"), Mr. Robbins remained primarily devoted to ballet. After 1964, show business ceased to interest him as a serious endeavor. Rightly, he sensed that whatever his success on Broadway, his eventual reputation would rest on his enduring ballets. It was this output that made him the first major American-born classical choreographer and a member of the 20th-century ballet pantheon that included Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Michel Fokine and Antony Tudor.