Balanchine’s Women

I recently stumbled upon this fantastic series of illustrations detailing the many women of Don Draper from Mad Men created by artist Hannah Choi.

don7 don6 don4 don3 don2 don1

He certainly has a type doesn’t he? Broken, beautiful, easily manipulated, brunettes. Sounds like another famous playboy we might all know…

George Balanchine, directed and founder of New York City Ballet, had a rather nasty reputation for falling in love with whoever he crowned principal ballerina with his celebrated company, regardless of age difference or his own marital status. The cycle usually went something like this:

Director hires talent- Director falls in love with talent- Director marries talent- Director spots new talent- Director divorces and remarries newer, younger talent- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Balanchine was married four times, to a bevy of slender, long-legged beauties. He is famously quoted for saying, “I never left any of them. They all left me“.


My favorite connection is that both were infatuated with a woman named Suzanne Farrell. In Draper’s case, I think she was his daughter Sally’s teacher.

In Balanchine’s story, Suzanne Farrell is one of the most celebrated of all American Ballerina’s, very infamous as Balanchine’s muse and the one who refused to marry him- he was about 25 years her senior by that point. There’s a great picture of the two of them as the lead roles in Don Quixote, him looking longingly, she trying to escape (how appropriate!) from ‘Tributes’, one of my favorite books.

don9 don8 don10

When she instead married then City Ballet dancer Paul Mejia in 1969, she was scandalously ‘released’ from her duties as NYCB dancer and as Balanchi’s muse.  She was brought back to dance with the company again in 1975, only to be ‘fired’ by her former partner and director of the company, Peter Martins i(pictured above) n 1993. The whole affair is wonderfully described here in the New York Times.The whole thing seems pretty unfair to poor Suzanne to me, who was also fired as a teacher with New York City Ballet. What a raw deal! The only silver lining is being left out of my own quick sketched series:

Pencil/Charcoal on paper- The Wives of George Balanchine

 IMG_0948 IMG_0938

Mr B's first wife- Tamara Geva

Mr B’s first wife- Tamara Geva

Wife #2- Vera Zorina

Wife #2- Vera Zorina

Wife #3- Maria Tallchief

Wife #3- Maria Tallchief

Wife #4- Tanaquil LeClercq

Wife #4- Tanaquil LeClercq

I did not draw ballerina Suzanne Farrell. She wasn’t his wife, and besides, no one likes a sloppy scribbled second.

*If you’re interested in more of my dancer doodles, go ahead and sneak a peek at the ‘Art for Sale’ and ‘Serious Art and other Doodles’ categories. I still love this caricature of a few of the choreographers I’ve worked with.

2 thoughts on “Balanchine’s Women

  1. Pingback: Studio 54: White Washed | BODIES NEVER LIE

  2. Pingback: Gender Equality in Ballet | BODIES NEVER LIE

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