He graduated from the Russian Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in 1904 (the teacher was Platon Karsavin), and that same year he became a dancer with Mariinsky Ballet. In 1908 and 1909 he ran a European tour with Anna Pavlova.
He then collaborated with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris, along with several other dancers from Mariinsky. In 1917, during the second part of a two-part American tour by the Ballets Russes (without Diaghilev, but with Nijinsky), Bolm was injured during the ballet Thamar. The injury was serious, and he was taken to the hospital for a long time and left the tour to stay in the United States. He went on to organize Ballet Intime in New York and choreographed for the New York Metropolitan Opera. Bolm and dancer Ruth Page appeared together in an experimental dance film Danse Macabre (1922) directed by Dudley Murphy.
In 1919 he moved to Chicago where he stayed and worked before moving in 1929 to California. In 1933, following the opening of the War Memorial Opera House, the San Francisco Opera established the San Francisco Opera Ballet (SFOB) under Bolm's direction as the ballet master. On June 2, 1933, even before he produces dances for operas, SFOB begins presenting independent,all-dance programs.