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John Kriza Edit Profile

ballet dancer

John Kriza was a ballet dancer who was one of American Ballet Theatre's best-known male principals.


Kriza, John was born on January 15, 1919 in Berwyn, Illinois, United States. Son of John Jay and Marie (Bily) Kriza.


Student Morton Jr.


Kriza danced with ABT from 1940 to 1966. He originated rôles in ballets by nearly every major choreographer from the period, including George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Eugene Loring, Léonide Massine, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor. Some of the most significant include one of the sailors in Robbins' Fancy Free (1944) and the Pastor in de Mille's Fall River Legend (1948).

He is probably best-remembered, though, for his performance in the title rôle of Loring's Billy the Kid. Although Kriza did not appear in Hollywood musicals, he performed regularly on television—most significantly in the title rôle of Billy the Kid for Omnibus (1953). Other credits include the Pastor in Fall River Legend and the Champion Roper in Rodeo, also for Omnibus.

A number of archival films exist at the New York Public Library. After retiring in 1966, Kriza remained on staff at ABT until he died while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico near Naples, Florida. Kriza was the brother of Lillian Rosicky and George J. Kriza, son of John Kriza and Marie He was well known in Berwyn where he grew up, attending Morton High School.

In the course of his career, he danced for John Kennedy in the White House, Khruschev in the Kremlin and before other dignitaries.


  • He was often featured in the local Berwyn Life, and was well known among his community for his ballet achievements.


He was a member of the original cast of American Ballet Theatre.


John Jay Kriza

Marie (Bily) Kriza