unnamed (23)The most influential ballerina of the 20th century, Suzanne Farrell, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the McCallum Theatre’s 17th Annual Choreography Festival on Saturday, November 8th at 7pm.  Tickets for the Festival, which range from $15-$35, are available at the McCallum Theatre box office, by calling 760-346-2787 (ARTS) or online at The Saturday night Festival performance features works created by seven choreographers from across the nation who will travel to the desert with their professional dancers to compete for multiple awards and a paid engagement.  On Sunday, November 9th at 4pm an additional eleven choreographers will present their work alongside local students in our East Valley Dance and Studio Projects.  

Throughout the nearly three decades of her performing career, Suzanne Farrell was the most influential American ballerina of the late 20th century, as well as the exquisite muse of one of the undisputed masters of ballet, George Balanchine. After retiring from the stage in 1989, she emerged as one of the world’s most inspiring ballet teachers and directors.

Today she is a repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust, the independent organization founded after the choreographer’s death by the heirs to his ballets to oversee their worldwide licensing and production. Since 1988 Ms. Farrell has staged Balanchine’s works for a range of companies, including the Berlin Opera Ballet, the Vienna State Opera Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, as well as American companies throughout the United States.  Since the fall of 2000, Ms. Farrell has been a full-time professor in the dance department at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Suzanne Farrell was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and received her early training at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music before moving to New York City at the age of 15 to pursue a career as a ballet dancer. George Balanchine handpicked her for his company when she was only 16, after a she spent a year as a Ford Foundation scholarship student at the School of American Ballet. Her unique combination of musical, physical, and dramatic gifts quickly ignited Balanchine’s imagination. Balanchine went on to invent new ballets for her including Diamonds, Chaconne and Mozartiana, in which the limits of ballerina technique were expanded to a degree not seen before or since. For a generation, she danced and redefined the standards of everything from one of the earliest Balanchine ballets, Apollo, to his very last creation, Variations for Orchestra.

From 1970 to 1975, Ms. Farrell performed with Maurice Béjart’s Ballet du XXe Siècle in Brussels, Belgium before returning to New York City Ballet where she performed for the remainder of her performing career. By the time she retired from the stage in 1989, Ms. Farrell had achieved a career that is without precedent or parallel in the history of ballet. During her 28 years on the stage, she danced a repertory of more than one hundred ballets, nearly a third of which were composed expressly for her by Balanchine and other choreographers, including Jerome Robbins and Maurice Béjart.  Her numerous performances with Balanchine’s company (more than two thousand), her world tours, and her appearances in television and movies have made her one of the most recognizable and highly esteemed artists of her generation.  She is also the recipient of numerous artistic and academic accolades.

Ms. Farrell began her association with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1993, working with the Education Department. In 2001, she created the Kennedy Center’s own ballet company, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and serves as Artistic Director. Committed to carrying forth the legacy of George Balanchine through performances of his classic ballets, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet announced the formal creation of the Balanchine Preservation Initiative in February 2007.  This initiative serves to introduce rarely seen or “lost” Balanchine works to audiences around the world. Many of these works have not been performed in nearly forty years. The Initiative is produced with the knowledge and cooperation of The George Balanchine Trust.  To date, the Company’s repertoire includes nine Balanchine Preservation Initiative Ballets including Ragtime (Balanchine/Stravinsky),Divertimento Brillante (Balanchine/Glinka), and Pithoprakta (Balanchine/Xenakis). The company enjoys annual engagements at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

In addition to her work for the Balanchine Trust, she is active in a variety of cultural and philanthropic organizations such as the New York State Council on the Arts, the Arthritis Foundation, the Professional Children’s School, and the Princess Grace Foundation. Summit Books published her autobiography, Holding On to the Air in 1990 and Suzanne Farrell – Elusive Muse (directed by Anne Belle and Deborah Dickson) was an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Film in 1997.