School of American Ballet

Coordinates: 40°46′27″N 73°59′03″W / 40.77417°N 73.98417°W / 40.77417; -73.98417
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School of American Ballet

United States
Coordinates40°46′27″N 73°59′03″W / 40.77417°N 73.98417°W / 40.77417; -73.98417
TypeBallet school
Established1934; 90 years ago (1934)
Campus typeUrban

The School of American Ballet (SAB) is the associate school of the New York City Ballet, a ballet company based at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. The school trains students from the age of six, with professional vocational ballet training for students aged 11–18. Graduates of the school achieve employment with leading ballet companies worldwide, and in the United States with New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Houston Ballet.


The school was founded by the Russo-Georgian-born choreographer George Balanchine, and philanthropists Lincoln Kirstein and Edward Warburg in 1934.[1] Balanchine's self- prescribed edict, "But first, a school", is indicative of his adherence to the ideals of the training that was fostered by the Imperial Ballet School where he received his training. He realized that most great dance companies were fed by an academy closely associated with it. This practice afforded scores of dancers, well versed in the specifics of his technique and choreographic style. Among the teachers there were many Russian emigres who fled the Russian Revolution: Pierre Vladimiroff, Felia Doubrovska,[2] Anatole Oboukhoff, Hélène Dudin, Ludmilla Schollar, Antonina Tumkovsky, and Alexandra Danilova. Their intention was to establish a major classical ballet company in America, which would lead to the formation of today's New York City Ballet. The school was formed to train and feed dancers into the company. It opened at 637 Madison Avenue with 32 students on January 2, 1934, and the students first performed that June.[3][4] Seventy-five years later, the School was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.[5]


Students are chosen through audition. Children's division auditions for the 2007–08 school year included six-year-olds for the first time; previously, the youngest students were required to turn eight in the year they began their studies. Children in the younger divisions are able to perform in various ballets with the company including George Balanchine's famous The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Martins's Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty. The most advanced students perform in a workshop at the end of each year where the heads of ballet companies choose several of them to join their companies, including New York City Ballet. This started in 1965, when Alexandra Danilova sought and received approval from Balanchine to produce a spring workshop performance for the students. These workshops have become an important preview for many outstanding dancers.[6]

The school also hosts a summer program, where it selects about 200 dance students from across the country to train for five weeks. This summer program is one of the most selective ballet summer programs in the country. During the summer program, students are divided into seven girls' classes and two boys' classes:

Girls' classes: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII

Boys' classes: Intermediate, Advanced

A small group of students from the summer program may be invited to enroll in SAB's winter term.

During the winter term, students are divided into levels based on their age and abilities.

Preparatory Division, for students aged 6–7 who are new to ballet.

Children's Division:

  • Girls I, II, III, IV, V
  • Boys I, II, III, IV

Intermediate Division: B1, B2, Intermediate Men

Advanced Division: C1, C2, D, Advanced Men

Boys typically spend two years in each level.


As of January 2024, the faculty of The School of American Ballet includes Jonathan Stafford (artistic director and chair of faculty), Aesha Ash (associate chair of faculty), Dena Abergel, Marika Anderson, Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara, Megan Fairchild, Gonzalo Garcia, Craig Hall, Adam Hendrickson, Arch Higgins, Anthony Huxley, Sterling Hyltin, Katrina Killian (children's division manager), Lauren King, Meagan Mann, Kay Mazzo (former chairman of faculty), Christopher Charles McDaniel, Allen Peiffer (professional placement manager), Suki Schorer (Brown Foundation senior faculty chair), and Andrew Scordato.


According to SAB, alumni of the School of American Ballet make up over 90% of New York City Ballet, all but two of the company mem at present.[when?][7][8] Some alumni include Mary Ellen Moylan, Maria Tallchief, Tanaquil LeClercq, Francisco Moncion, John Clifford,[9][10] Nicholas Magallanes,[11][12][13] Lois Bewley,[14] Jacques d'Amboise, Debra Austin, Margaret Severin-Hansen, Jillana, Allegra Kent, Arthur Mitchell, Wilhelmina Frankfurt, Patricia McBride, Alicia Holloway, Paul Frame, Peter Frame, Edward Villella, Suzanne Farrell, Kay Mazzo, Kathryn Morgan, Garielle Whittle, Helgi Tomasson, Fernando Bujones, Gelsey Kirkland, Heather Watts, Merrill Ashley, Lourdes Lopez, Jock Soto, Peter Boal, Olivia Boisson, Alexandra Waterbury, Victoria Rowell, Kyra Nichols, Darci Kistler, Patrick Bissell, Damian Woetzel, Ethan Stiefel, Wendy Whelan, Alan Bergman, Llanchie Stevenson, Sarah Hay, Arlene Shuler, and Paloma Herrera as well as celebrities Sean Young, Ashlee Simpson, Macaulay Culkin, Lawrence Leritz, Vanessa Carlton, Yvonne Craig. Megan Mullally, Alex Westerman, and Madeleine Martin.[citation needed]

Mae L. Wien Awards[edit]

Lawrence A. Wien, his daughters and their families founded the Mae L. Wien Awards in their mother's name. SAB students are chosen each year on the basis of their outstanding promise and a faculty member is honored for distinguished service. Former New York City Ballet ballet master in chief and SAB chairman of faculty, Peter Martins used to occasionally give a third award to a young choreographer at his discretion.

In popular culture[edit]

School of American Ballet is featured in the 2020 Disney+ documentary On Pointe, showing the lives of several students during a year at the school.[15]


  1. ^ "Edward M. M. Warburg Strives to Give Life Meaning Through Art". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. November 19, 1933. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  2. ^ Jack Anderson, "Felia Doubrovska Dies at 85; Ballerina and Noted Teacher", New York Times, September 21, 1981.
  3. ^ RAIN DEFERS RECITAL OF BALLET SCHOOL; 250 Guests of Mr. and Mrs. Felix M. Warburg Witness Part of Event at White Plains, June 10, 1934
  4. ^ BALLET SCHOOL GIVES 2 WORLD PREMIERES; Recital at Estate of the Felix M. Warburgs Is First Outside of Studio, June 11, 1934.
  5. ^ White House Announces 2009 National Medal of Arts Recipients Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (May 22, 1989). "Ballet School Gala Benefit Is a Farewell For Teacher". The New York Times.
  7. ^ dancers by name, NYCB website
  8. ^ dancers by rank, NYCB website
  9. ^ William James Lawson, "Moncion, Francisco," in International Encyclopedia of Dance, edited by Selma Jeanne Cohen and others (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  10. ^ Francisco Moncion Biography in
  11. ^ "John Willis' Dance World Volume 12. Willis, John A., Crown Publishers, 1976, p.200 Nicholas Magallanes Obituary on
  12. ^ Anne Murphy, "Magallanes, Nicholas," in International Encyclopedia of Dance, edited by Selma Jeanne Cohen and others (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  13. ^ Nicholas Magallanes Biography in
  14. ^ Weber, Bruce (November 29, 2012). "Lois Bewley, Multifaceted Ballerina, Dies at 78". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Kourlas, Gia (December 17, 2020). "'On Pointe': The Real-Life Adventures of Some Very Young Dancers". The New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2021.

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