Violette Verdy was one of the premier ballet dancers of the twentieth century and dedicated her post-performance life to training future generations of dancers. Her remarkable achievements as a dancer, teacher, and administrator in several of the world's foremost dance companies and ballet schools garnered her international acclaim.
Born in Pont-L'Abbe, France, Verdy began her dancing career in 1945 as a soloist with Roland Petit's Ballets des Champs Elysée (later called Les Ballets de Paris). She toured the United States for the first time in 1953 and, five years later, was invited by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet as principal dancer, a position she held for 18 years until her retirement from the stage in 1976.
While at the New York City Ballet, she danced more than 25 principal roles. Balanchine, created many roles especially for her, including roles in such ballets as Liebeslieder Waltzer, Episodes, Jewels, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Sonatina. Distinguished American choreographer Jerome Robbins also created roles for her in Dances at a Gathering and In the Night, among other works.
Verdy also appeared as a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre and the London Festival Ballet as well as a guest principal dancer with many of the world's leading dance companies. She was a frequent guest at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and appeared internationally with England's Royal Ballet at Covent Garden; the Paris Opera Ballet; and the Stuttgart, Munich, and Hamburg Ballets.
She has been the subject of a 1978 biography, Ballerina, written by Victoria Huckenpahler, as well as two documentaries, Violette: A Life in Dance (1982), produced by Boston PBS station WGBH, and Violette et Mr. B (2001), created by filmmaker Dominique Delouche for ARTE France.
Verdy also choreographed for several national and international ballet companies over the course of her illustrious career. Choregraphy is close to her heart, and that love is reflected in the two children's books she has written: Gisele: A Role for a Lifetime(1970) and Of Swans, Sugar Plums, and Satin Slippers (1991).
Upon her retirement, Verdy undertook a new career as an administrator and teacher. In 1977, she was the first woman to be appointed Artistic Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. She held this position until 1980, when she was invited to be Co-Artistic Director, and then Director, of the Boston Ballet.
In 1996, Ms. Verdy was appointed Professor of the School of Music, Indiana University Bloomington.