On This Day

Jerome Robbins

Choreographer, Director and Theater Producer Jerome Robbins

Profession: Choreographer, Director and Theater Producer

United States of America

Why Famous: Jerome Robbins was a leading 20th century choreographer for both American ballet and Broadway productions. His productions are marked by renown for his experimental choreography often based on contemporary American life but within the structures of classical dance.

Robbins began his career as a ballet dancer before creating his own works. In 1943 he created his first ballet "Fancy Free" about sailors on shore leave, working with the then unknown Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the score. The ballet was later reworked as the musical "On The Town".

One of Robbins biggest Broadway achievements was "West Side Story" in 1957 which he conceived and choreographed with Bernstein setting the score and Stephen Sondheim writing the lyrics. Robbins won the Tony award for his innovative choreography for the stage production and two Academy Awards in 1961 for the successful film version, for choreography and co-directing. Other popular Broadway productions included "Gypsy" (1959) and "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964).

Ballet remained Robins first love throughout his carer and although he gave up dancing in 1952 he continued to work with the New York City Ballet alongside fellow famed choreographer George Balanchine. Some of his most successful and innovative productions include "The Cage" (1951), "Afternoon of a Faun" (1953) and "Les Noces" (1964) featuring the music of Igor Stravinsky.

Robbins had been politically active in the 1940s and in 1953 was called to testify to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Controversially he named eight colleagues who had also been part of communist theater group.

On Robbins' death in 1998 the lights on Broadway were dimmed in his honor.

Born: October 11, 1918
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, USA

Generation: Greatest Generation
Chinese Zodiac: Horse
Star Sign: Libra

Died: July 29, 1998 (aged 79)

Historical Events

  • 1944-04-18 Leonard Bernstein & Jerome Robbins' ballet "Fancy Free" premieres in NYC
  • 1951-12-04 Aaron Copland's and Jerome Robbins' ballet "The Pied Piper" premieres in New York City
  • 1959-06-27 "West Side Story" closes at Winter Garden Theater NYC after 734 performances
  • 1961-10-18 Film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical "West Side Story", directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, and starring Natalie Wood, debuts (Academy Award - Best Picture, 1962)
  • 1962-04-09 34th Academy Awards: "West Side Story" (Best Picture, Director, and 8 more), Sophia Loren (Two Women) & Maximilian Schell (Judgement At Nuremberg) win
  • 1962-05-05 "West Side Story" soundtrack album goes #1 & stays #1 for 54 weeks which is more than 20 weeks longer than any other album
  • 1980-02-14 "West Side Story" opens at Minskoff Theater NYC for 341 performances
  • 1980-11-30 "West Side Story" closes at Minskoff Theater NYC after 341 performances
  • 1989-02-26 "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" opens at Imperial Theater, NYC; runs for 634 performances
  • 1990-09-01 "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" closes at Imperial theater, NYC. after 634 performances

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