Remembering Nancy N. Lassalle

Nancy Lassalle, 2011
©Patrick McMullan
The School of American Ballet mourns the passing of Nancy Lassalle – an advocate, supporter, and partner to the School and New York City Ballet. Nancy Norman Lassalle discovered her lifelong home at age 14 when she enrolled at SAB in 1941 and never left. Instantly impassioned and inspired by Lincoln Kirstein’s brilliance and George Balanchine’s artistic genius, Nancy found her life’s purpose in championing and advancing their dreams for the remainder of her long life; taking on many mantles–author, editor, educator, photographer, curator, fundraiser, philanthropist–in service to their vision for the School and Company.

A founding member of both NYCB and SAB’s boards upon their inceptions in the 1970s, Nancy’s perennial generosity was superseded by her daily engagement with and promotion of our missions. During her longstanding tenure as a board member, Nancy founded the SAB Advisory Council in 1975 to promote national and international awareness of SAB’s achievements and support scholarships for talented students worldwide, continuing as an active member throughout her life.

As a witness to ballet history in the making, Nancy was a champion for dance scholarship– documenting, recording, and preserving NYCB and SAB’s history through work with Dance Index, Ballet Society, Eakins Press, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and in numerous exhibits and publications documenting SAB and NYCB history. In the decades following the passings of Balanchine and Kirstein, Nancy served as a guardian of their legacy and ideals, ensuring that those carrying on in their wake would never lose sight of their original vision, and acting as a vital link between past and present. She served on NYCB’s board until 1992 and SAB’s until 2008, and as a Director Emerita for both organizations, she remained an ever-present family member and continued to live her life in service to our founders.

Nancy Lassalle with SAB students
Nancy Lassalle with SAB students

One of Nancy’s many resounding impacts on SAB was her instrumental role in launching the Cultural Program that has enriched the lives of hundreds of students by providing them with a holistic exposure to the cultural landscape of the arts. To honor her many years of dedication to the School, the Board of Directors unanimously voted in October 2020 to rename the program as the Lassalle Cultural Program.

All of us at SAB are grateful for Nancy’s leadership, generosity, and friendship throughout the years and know that her legacy continues through the lives of our students.