American Ballet Theatre [ABT]. Dance company. Formed in 1939 under the name Ballet Theatre, it gave its fi rst per for mance in January 1940. The found ers, Richard Pleasant and Lucia Chase, previously gave fi nancial support to ABT’s forerunner, Mordkin Ballet, led by the Rus sian dance teacher Mikhail Mordkin. Pleasant encouraged Chase to build a larger company on the Eu ro pe an model, and the two recruited many performers, including Eu ro pe ans fleeing the hostilities of World War II, and signed on Antony Tudor as their resident choreographer. Since its founding, ABT emphasized classical technique, such as the Vaganova method, and adaptability in its dancers. Its repertoire consisted of classical full- length ballets from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and contemporary works, including Giselle, Apollo, and Duets. ABT also encouraged the development of new works and has performed pieces by twentiethcentury choreographers such as Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharpe. The impresario Sol Hurok expanded the audience for the company by booking per formances at the Metropolitan Opera House but damaged its reputation by disregarding Tudor’s seriousness of purpose and seeking to impose his view that ballet should be frothy, high- spirited entertainment. The company nevertheless gave successful per for mances of Fancy Free (1944) by Jerome Robbins, ABT’s first collaboration with scenic designer Oliver Smith, and Theme and Variations (1947) by George Balanchine. Oliver Smith, who emphasized the interaction between moving scenery and the human form, later became codirector of ABT in 1945 and held the position until 1980. From the late 1940s to the early 1960s the company suffered from its lack of a permanent per for mance venue in New York City. After breaking with Hurok, it was unable to depend on the Metropolitan Opera House, and when Balanchine’s company, the New York City Ballet, became an affiliate of the City Center of Music and Drama in 1950 this venue became unavailable as well. The company was reduced to performing in various theaters on Broadway, an arrangement that proved unsatisfactory. Tours took on an increasingly important role: the company visited small U.S. cities throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Eu rope in 1956– 57 (at which time the company took its current name), and the Soviet Union with the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of State in 1960. These years were marked by such a lack of artistic focus that the tour of the Soviet Union took place only after one early supporter, John Martin of the New York Times, failed to dissuade the government from funding it. The fortunes of the company revived in 1964 when the New York State Theater opened as part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. By providing a home for the New York City Ballet, the theater again freed up the City Center for ABT; the New York State Theater was itself available when the New York City Ballet and the City Opera were not in residence there. In 1967 the company gave a well- received per for mance of the complete Swan Lake, staged by David Blair of the Royal Ballet. In the same year Cynthia Gregory emerged as a promising dancer and Eliot Feld made his debut as a choreographer. The company continued to emphasize international talent: among those who performed with the company after taking up residence in the United States were the prominent Russian dancers Natalia Makarova (1970) and Mikhail Baryshnikov (1974) and Balanchine’s leading ballerina, Gelsey Kirkland. In 1977 public tele vi sion showed ABT’s production of The Nutcracker featuring Baryshnikov and Kirkland, regarded by many as a classic. The late 1970s were the company’s most successful years since its fi rst few seasons. In 1980 the board of directors, in a controversial move, forced the retirement of Chase and placed Baryshnikov as the new artistic director. He received continual pop u lar and internal criticism during this time. With Baryshnikov as the head, the company refined its classical tradition and staged and restaged many classical ballets. Baryshnikov resigned from the directorship in 1989 and a year later was replaced by Oliver Smith and Jane Hermann, a former director in the pre sen ta tions department in the Metropolitan Opera Association. This change was characterized by bitterness, threats of strikes and fi nancial collapse, and fears for the company’s financial and artistic survival. In 1992 Kevin McKenzie, a former ABT principal dancer, became the artistic director. He wished to maintain the company’s traditional repertoire and recognized the importance of touring as a source of revenue, publicity, and spreading dance to people all over the world. In the fall of 2000 ABT visited China, Singapore, and Taiwan, the latter two for the fi rst time. The company supports the development of dance and choreography by holding various programs, such as ABT II, and summer intensive sessions for young artists from across the United States. In 2004 ABT opened the Jacqueline Onassis School, a facility that teaches dancers from 12 to 18 years old. Its curriculum uses principles from the classic French, Italian, and Rus sian schools of training in order to provide its students with classical technique and the ability to adapt to all styles of dance; thus they are instructed in the ideals of the company that they may later join. ABT annually tours the United States, reaching more than 600,000 people. Its repertoire continues to consist of classical ballets and contemporary works, many with American themes. While ABT remains at City Center in the fall, during its main season the company performs at the Metropolitan Opera House for eight weeks in the spring.