Lew Christensen (published 1982)

Dublin Core


Lew Christensen (published 1982)


Christensen recalls his experiences working with George Balanchine during the formative period of American ballet in New York City. He tells how be became the first American to dance the role of Apollo in Balanchine's ballet of the same name.

Biographical Note:

Christensen was born in Salt Lake City in 1908. He received his earliest training from relatives in his talented family. He danced in vaudeville with his brothers and began attending George Balanchine's School of American Ballet in New York. In 1935 Christensen joined Balanchine's company at the Metropolitan Opera House; he went on to originate many principal roles there. In 1936 he began choreographing for Ballet Caravan, a summer touring company. He served as ballet master for the New York City Ballet until 1952, when he became director of the San Francisco Ballet. He was creating new dances there at the time of this 1979 interview.


Pratt SILS LIS-665, Barbara Newman

Date Created

May 21, 1979



Access Rights

Restricted. To access full length audio or for further inquiries please visit our contact page.



Is Part Of

Newman, B. (1982). Striking a balance: Dancers talk about dancing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Newman, B. (1992). Striking a balance: Dancers talk about dancing. New York: Limelight Editions




Interviews recorded on cassette by Barbara Newman

Rights Holder

Barbara Newman, Lew Christensen

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Audio Cassette Tape

Digital Format


Digital Master

christensen1979may21_sidea.wav, christensen1979may21_sideb.wav



Bit Rate/Frequency



Barbara Newman


Lew Christensen, 1908-1984


San Francisco, CA

Additional content

"In 1928, four Russians made history with a ballet about a Greek god. When the impresario Diaghilev united Balanchine and Stravinsky for the first time - their friendship and collaboration would last more than forty years and yield some twenty-six works - they created Apollon Musagete, whose title role was first danced by Serge Lifar. Nine years later, a young American dancer in an even younger American ballet company inherited the role. He hadn't come from Russia via the fabled theatres of Paris, London, and Monte Carlo, but from Utah via vaudeville and musical comedy. A month before Apollon Musagete opened at the Metropolitan Opera House, Balanchine's steadfast American impresario, Lincoln Kirstein, described the dancer as "a young man who could be credited as a potential divinity." Balanchine simply told him, "You are a woodcutter, a swimmer, a football player, a god." The young man was Lew Christensen, who had set out to become a ballet dancer in America when American ballet barely existed. In the process of fulfilling his private goals, he accidentally became one of its pioneers," Barbara Newman (1992).




“Lew Christensen (published 1982),” Dance Dialogues: Interviews by Barbara Newman, 1979-Present, accessed June 28, 2022, http://dancedialogues.prattsils.org/items/show/20.

Output Formats