Illustration by Maria Manhattan
Jerome Robbins was born in New York City on October 11, 1918 and raised in Weehawken, New Jersey. As a child he showed talent, studying piano, violin and dance. Leaving New York University after a year, he devoted himself to dance. He studied ballet, choreography, modern, and ethnic dance, but is best known for his uniquely American style. Robbins was a Broadway chorus boy before joining American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet as a choreographer and dancing lead roles.
In 1944, he choreographed his first ballet, Fancy Free, his first collaboration with composer Leonard Bernstein. He also collaborated with Stephen Sondheim, George Balanchine and Bob Fosse. A director of musicals, plays and movies, Robbins developed, directed and choreographed some of the most poplar American musicals, including West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). He is the recipient of numerous awards including two Academy Awards, four Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Screen Directors’ Guild Award.