Imagine New York on a hot summer night in 1944. Three sailors on shore leave pick up two girls and a fight breaks out over which sailor is to be left without a partner. In the bar, they stage a competition, each dancing to win the favor of a girl. When the girls are unable to choose between them, the fight resumes and the girls slip away. The sailors make up, but suddenly a third girl passes their way…Have they learned their lesson?
When Jerome Robbins’ first ballet, Fancy Free, premiered in New York on April 18, 1944, it proved to be one of the most exciting evenings in the history of ballet in America, marking the emergence of three new American talents: choreographer Jerome Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, and designer Oliver Smith. That same year, the ballet was transformed into the Broadway musical On the Town and established Robbins and Bernstein as formidable talents in American theater. Robbins danced in the Fancy Free premiere with Janet Reed, one of American ballet’s favorite soubrettes, who went on to join New York City Ballet and later became Founding Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School.