EXCLUSIVE: Gulfstream Pictures has bellied up to the bar on Balanchine, a feature based on iconic ballet choreographer George Balanchine. David K. Israel is adapting Elizabeth Kendall’s acclaimed book Balanchine & the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer. Gulfstream Pictures partners Mike Karz and Bill Bindley are producing. Set against the backdrop of the Russian revolution, the film tells the coming-of-age story of Balanchine, during his tenure at Mariinsky Theater and school where he met his muse, Leda Ivanova. Despite the traumatizing political turmoil surrounding them and the mysterious disappearance of Ivanova, Balanchine went on to revolutionize modern ballet. Zippora Karz, one of the last dancers handpicked by Balanchine for the New York City Ballet who went on to become a soloist, will be exec producer.

balanchine pic“We know George Balanchine as the father of American ballet, but he had a life before he came to the U.S., and his relationship with Leda is sexy and exciting,” said Gulfstream partner Bill Bindley. Added Karz: “This is a riveting, filmmaker’s story that captures an era and infuses it with intrigue, wit and compassion. The right director will help bring it to life.”

Zippora, now the flamekeeper for the George Balanchine Trust in staging his choreography around the world, said: “When I read Elizabeth Kendall’s book, I felt compelled to bring this remarkable, untold story to the world. Balanchine’s early life was bursting with love and passion but also tragedy, and his story is the ultimate triumph of the human spirit over adversity. I am so looking forward to seeing that inspiration, love and desire captured in this movie.”

Israel previously worked for Leonard Bernstein’s estate, helping to edit and publish West Side Story, among other Bernstein properties. He has written music and libretto for ballets commissioned by Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp, and Random House published his novel, Behind Everyman. He is currently developing one-hour dramas for television. He’s repped by CAA, Art/Work Entertainment and Jill Smith at Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo.

Gulfstream is in postproduction on Mother’s Day, the Garry Marshall-directed ensemble comedy that stars Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis. The company separately is percolating a sequel to the animated film The Nut Job along with King David, a potential epic adaptation of Rabbi David Wolpe’s book David: The Divided Heart, about the biblical hero.