Biographical/historical: "American Ballet Theatre (ABT) was founded in 1939 with the intention of creating an American company of international stature, a museum of the dance, “which would preserve the best of the classic tradition of Europe and at the same time lay the foundation for a new tradition, American in concept and spirit.” Its guiding principle was to encourage collaboration between artists with no single choreographer taking precedence. The records of the company attest to the pursuit of these goals. Launched in New York City in the fall of 1939, ABT was an outgrowth of the Mordkin Ballet, which began in 1937 as an outlet for the talents of the students of Mikhail Mordkin's school. The aim of the new company was to develop a repertoire of the best ballets from the past and to encourage the creation of new works by gifted young choreographers. Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith were the directors from 1945 to 1980. ABT's repertoire includes the great full-length ballets of the 19th century, such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle; works from the early part of the 20th century, such as Apollo, Les Sylphides, Jardin aux Lilas and Rodeo, and more recent works including Airs, Push Comes to Shove and Duets. In acquiring such a broad repertoire, ABT commissioned works by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp, among others.
In 1980, Mikhail Baryshnikov became Artistic Director, succeeding Lucia Chase and Oliver Smith. Under his leadership, numerous classical ballets were staged, restaged and refurbished, and the Company experienced a strengthening and refining of the classical tradition. In 1990, Jane Hermann and Oliver Smith succeeded Baryshnikov.
In October 1992, former ABT Principal Dancer Kevin McKenzie was appointed Artistic Director. "