Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 May 2015
This article chronicles the formation and first season of the dance company Ballet Caravan (1936–1940) with a special focus on the role of Lincoln Kirstein in the troupe's founding. This account of the Caravan's early history draws upon an array of primary sources to offer new perspectives on the company's relationship to modern dance circles and its parent organizations (the American Ballet and School of American Ballet, co-founded by Kirstein and George Balanchine in 1934). It traces Ballet Caravan's touring activities during 1936 (including its debut at Bennington College) and details ballets created for the company by Lew Christensen, Eugene Loring, and William Dollar, as well as previously unknown early choreographic work by Erick Hawkins. This account reveals that Ballet Caravan was initially conceived of neither as a dancer-driven initiative nor a deliberate attempt by Kirstein to pursue an American artistic agenda (as it has been previously understood by scholars), but rather was a practical response to institutional crises in the larger Balanchine–Kirstein ballet enterprise. The American Ballet and Ballet Caravan thus reveal themselves in 1936 as more contiguous than distinct, sharing personnel and aesthetic values, as well as the involvement of Balanchine himself.
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