Jerome Robbins was a Broadway theater producer and choreographer best known for his work in ballet/dance. He worked in a variety of genres, from classical ballet to contemporary musical theater, and he also directed films and television programs on occasion. Jerome was born into a family of Russian Jewish immigrants who had close ties to vaudeville performers and theater owners. From an early age, he was exposed to show business. He excelled at music, dancing, and theatrics as a child and was naturally drawn to artistic endeavors. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at New York University (NYU) to study chemistry but was forced to withdraw after a year due to family financial difficulties. This issue, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it allowed him to devote himself entirely to his true passion—dance. He studied ballet, modern dance, Spanish dance, folk dance, and dance composition under the tutelage of some of the era’s most renowned dance teachers. He began his career as a dancer in Broadway productions before pursuing a career in choreography. After a successful Broadway career during which he earned widespread respect and acclaim, he entered the film industry by recreating his stage dances in their film adaptations. In his later years, he co-directed the New York City Ballet with Peter Martins.
Childhood & Adolescence
Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz was born in New York City, United States of America, on October 11, 1918, to Harry Rabinowitz and his wife Lena Rips. His parents were Russian Jews who had numerous connections in show business, including vaudeville performers and theater owners. He was the lone surviving sibling.
As a high school student, he demonstrated an early interest in music, dancing, and theatrics. After completing his primary education in Weehawken, he enrolled in and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1935.
He enrolled at New York University (NYU) in late 1935 to study chemistry. America was reeling from the effects of the Great Depression at the time, and his family was unable to fund his education, forcing him to drop out.
Leaving college, on the other hand, allowed him to pursue his interest in dance. He enrolled at the New Dance League, where he studied ballet, modern dance, Spanish dance, and folk dance from Ella Daganova, Antony Tudor, Helen Veola, and Yeichi Nimura, among others. Additionally, he studied dance composition under the tutelage of Bessie Schonberg.
Career of Jerome
By the time Jerome Rabinowitz began his professional career, he had abandoned his Jewish-sounding surname in favor of “Robbins.” In 1937, he began dancing and choreographing at Tamiment, a progressive-movement resort in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania. Numerous other rising stars performed at the resort, including Danny Kaye, Imogene Coca, and Carol Channing.
He quickly began performing in Broadway productions such as ‘Great Lady,’ ‘The Straw Hat Revue,’ and ‘Keep Off the Grass.’ He also choreographed numerous dramatic pieces in the late 1930s that dealt with contentious issues such as racism, war, and lynching.
In 1940, Jerome Robbins joined the newly formed Ballet Theatre. He quickly advanced from the corps de ballet to solo roles as the Young Man in Agnes De Mille’s ‘Three Virgins and a Devil,’ Hermes in ‘Helen of Troy,’ and the tragic puppet in ‘Petroushka.’
In the early 1940s, he collaborated with the then-unknown composer Leonard Bernstein on his first ballet, ‘Fancy Free.’ The ballet, titled Sailors, premiered on April 22, 1944. It was a smashing success and cemented his reputation as a choreographer.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he achieved considerable fame and popularity. He continued to create ballets and musicals for the Ballet Theatre, conceiving and choreographing both.
In 1951, he created the dance sequences for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘The King and I,’ and his techniques quickly gained international acclaim. He also created ‘The Cage’ for the New York City Ballet that year. He also performed show doctoring during the decade on the musicals ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ (1951), ‘Wish You Were Here’ (1952), and ‘Wonderful Town’ (1953).
Jerome Robbins achieved unprecedented success in 1957 with the musical ‘West Side Story,’ which was inspired by William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. It was a critical and commercial success, running for 732 performances before touring and earning six Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical in 1957.
The musical ‘West Side Story’ was such a success that it was adapted into a 1961 film directed by Robbins and Robert Wise. The film was a smashing success, winning ten Academy Awards in the spring of 1962.
Robbins was also known as a show doctor. He was instrumental in rescuing ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1962) and ‘Funny Girl’ (1964), both of which were in trouble when he took over their direction. He was able to salvage both troubled productions.
In the 1970s and 1980s, he remained as productive as ever. He choreographed and directed stage productions for the Joffrey Ballet and the New York City Ballet, eventually becoming the latter’s ballet master in 1972. In the 1970s, he worked primarily in classical dance.
In the 1980s, he became more visible on television, appearing on NBC’s ‘Live From Studio 8H: An Evening of Jerome Robbins’ Ballets’ alongside members of the New York City Ballet. His choreography was also featured on PBS’s ‘Dance in America’ in a 1986 episode.
Significant Works of Jerome
Jerome Robbins received widespread acclaim for his direction and choreography of the 1957 musical ‘West Side Story.’ The musical told the story of a romance that blossoms amid the rivalry between two teenage street gangs of disparate ethnic origins. It was an instant success, catapulting Robbins to stardom.
In 1961, he co-directed with Robert Wise the film adaptation of ‘West Side Story,’ which was also a huge success. It received widespread critical acclaim and was also a box office smash. It was the year’s second highest grossing film in the United States and was nominated for ten Academy Awards.
Awards and Accomplishments
Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise shared the Academy Award for Best Director for their film adaptation of ‘West Side Story’ (1961). In the same year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him with a special award for his choreographic contributions to film.
He also won five Tony Awards, including one for Best Choreography for the 1957 musical ‘West Side Story’ and one for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography for ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ (1964).
Personal History and Legacies
Jerome Robbins was a bisexual individual. He was previously involved with Montgomery Clift. Additionally, he was close with ballerina Tanaquil LeClercq.
In 1990, he was involved in a bicycle accident, which harmed his health. His health deteriorated further following heart valve surgery in 1994, and in 1996, he began exhibiting symptoms of a form of Parkinson’s disease. In 1998, he suffered a stroke and died in New York City on July 29, 1998.
Estimated Net Worth
Jerome is one of the wealthiest directors and is listed on the list of the most popular directors. Jerome Robbins net worth is approximately $2Million, according to our analysis, Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.