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Within months Clifford was given leading roles and at age twenty Balanchine asked him to choreograph for this prestigious company. During his eight years with the NYC Ballet he choreographed eight new ballets as well as dancing the lead in over 45 ballets by Balanchine, and several by Jerome Robbins and others...many choreographed expressly for him. It was here under the tutelage of Balanchine and Robbins that Clifford honed his craft and learned how to choreograph at breakneck speed, just like his mentor, George Balanchine. Clifford was also the first American male dancer in history to be a guest artist with the Paris Opera Ballet, and by his 20's his own original ballets were danced by companies from San Francisco to Canada; from Paris to Berlin.
He returned to Los Angeles at age twenty-six to found the first fully professional ballet in that city, the LOS ANGELES BALLET. For over ten years this company gave over 100 performances annualy in Los Angeles, performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at both the Hollywood Bowl and the Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center, performed at the Greek Theater, The Pantages Theater, and at every university of note in Southern California. This company also toured three times to New York City, (always receiving rave reviews in the New York and national press) Mexico, Canada, Taipei, the Philippines, Korea, and 5 national USA tours. Also during these very productive years Mr. Clifford choreographed, and his company appeared in, numerous films and TV productions. He has created dances to music of Sting, Chicago, Van Halen, Annie Lennox, Ravi Shankar, George Gershwin, Scott Joplin, as well as to Mozart, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. His company performed his choreography with the Rock group CHICAGO and the Jazz great GEORGE BENSON at The GREEK THEATER to standing ovations.
He also found the time to direct and choreograph a national tour of the Broadway musical Li'L ABNER plus appear as a guest artist on Galas from Berlin to London to Paris, and with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. Balanchine personally invited Clifford to return to the NYC Ballet on many occasions to dance as a guest artist...a very rare honor. He staged the Balanchine 100th Anniversary Galas for the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballet companies, and has staged Balanchine's and his own ballets internationally.
Clifford created history again as the only person Warner Bros. Studios has ever allowed to adapt their cherished film, CASABLANCA for the stage. CASABLANCA, THE DANCE was premiered by his new company, the LOS ANGELES DANCE THEATER for several sold-out performances and standing ovations at the historic GREAT HALL OF THE PEOPLE in Beijing, China. www.youtube.com/casablancaspectacle
John Clifford produced the video THE ART OF THE CLASSICAL PAS DE DEUX, and was invited by Robert Redford to direct and oversee the video choreographer workshop at his SUNDANCE INSTITUTE.