Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Dancers Keelan Whitmore and Aisling Hill-Connor. Photographer Steve Wilson.
Dancers Keelan Whitmore and Aisling Hill-Connor. Photographer Steve Wilson.

Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Igor Stravinsky

George Balanchine said on several occasions that Stravinsky Violin Concerto was his favorite ballet. In an earlier version in 1941, Balanchine choreographed Balustrade (named for the balustrade in Pavel Tchelitchew’s scenery) for the Ballet Russe to Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto in D. When he returned to the score three decades later, he could no longer remember his original choreography. Balanchine was not at all disturbed by the loss. “What I did then was for then,” he said, “and what I wanted to do to this music for our Stravinsky Festival represented more than 30 years’ difference. The dancers were different and I liked the music even more.”

This piece, like most of Balanchine’s works, is without a plot, allowing the visual spectacle, not the story, to be the essential element. It is a beautifully phrased conversation between dance and music. New York City Ballet premiered the work under the title Violin Concerto in 1972 as part of the Stravinsky Festival in New York City. It became known as Stravinsky Violin Concerto in 1973.

Balanchine’s understanding of music stemmed from his early years when his musical studies were as important as his dance training. He said about his use of music previously untouched by ballet choreographers: “If the dance designer sees in the development of classical dancing a counterpart in the development of music and has studied them both, he will derive continual inspiration from great scores.”

World Premiere: June 18, 1972, New York City Ballet, Stravinsky Festival, New York State Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York City

Kansas City Ballet Premiere: October 6, 2005, Lyric Theatre

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