Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the New York City ballet. George Balanchine is considered the father of American ballet. He was one of the most prolific choreographers of the twentieth century, co-founding the New York City Ballet and serving as balletmaster for more than 35 years.
Before he passed away in 1983, he gifted a rubber plant to one of the NYCB dancers, Karin von Aroldingen. Her apartment today is filled with a dozen plants made from cuttings propagated from the original plant Balanchine gave her. And she presents these to individuals she feels have made a significant contribution to ballet.
Receiving a cutting from the plant is considered to be a great honor. It celebrates the spirit of Balanchine himself. Those who receive them feel great pressure to care for and preserve the plants. Fortunately, rubber plants are easy to care for and grow quite well. They are simple to propagate, and some who have received plants have created new cuttings to pass on to others. It is possible that the plant will be able to be passed on for generations through these many cuttings, something not likely to happen with other types of plants. You can read more about the tradition of the plant in Forget Bouquets: In Ballet, It’s All About the ‘Balanchine Plant.’
Genealogists face a similar responsibility. As we collect information on our ancestral families, we feel the pressure to be certain they are not forgotten. We put together pieces of information gathered from long-forgotten records. Using that information, we are able to pull together stories of their lives. And by doing so, we are able to bring them to life again.
Knowing these stories can have a big impact on our lives. Understanding where we came from can certainly give us a greater understanding of our immediate family, as well as greater insight into ourselves. This is a great gift that we can also give to future generations.
By caring for these stories, preserving them, and passing them on to family members, we can help our descendants to know themselves better. And we can make sure that the stories of our ancestors are not lost for future generations.
Much like the Balanchine Plant cuttings, it is a great honor to not only receive the stories of our ancestors, but to pass them on as well. Thirty years after his death, Balanchine is still having an impact. Sharing your family’s story is one way to ensure that decades after you have passed, your descendants will still know their history.