By Bonnie S. Bonnie S. Jacobi is a doctoral candidate in Music Education. Stravinsky's ballet Agon reflects a major turning point, both within his compositional career and in the history of the dance world. For Stravinsky, this work represented the fusion of his previous diatonic writing style and a new experimentation with the twelve-tone composition learned through studying the music of Anton Webern. Despite the complexity of the music, the results of the teamwork of Stravinsky and Balanchine astonished dance audiences at the New York City Ballet's premiere of the first twelve-tone ballet, a combination thought by many to be an oxymoron up until this point.
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Igor Stravinsky. In Greek, the word agon means struggle or contest. When he completed Agon at his home in the Hollywood hills in late April, , Stravinsky was soon to celebrate his 75th birthday, but was still exploring new schemes of composition, collaboration, and dramatic presentation. Balanchine and Stravinsky had been working on the project for several years. Each of the short twelve sections plus a prelude and two interludes uses a different combination of instruments, just as each dance employs a different combination of the eight female and four male dancers.
50 Years Ago, Modernism Was Given a Name: ‘Agon’
A MAN and a woman are alone onstage. He kneels, facing her, as if in fealty. She extends a leg high above his head like a sword, then rests it on his shoulder, perhaps in the traditional gesture with which a monarch dubs a squire a knight. The music is tone for strings playing without meter or pulse. He duly rises — but with her leg, now extended upward at 45 degrees, still resting on his shoulder.
Agon is a minute neoclassical ballet for twelve dancers with music by Igor Stravinsky. Its first choreographer was George Balanchine. Stravinsky began composition in December but was interrupted the next year; he resumed work in and concluded on April 27, This was released on the Wergo label seven years later and remains in the catalog, for sale online from Amazon. The composition's long gestation period covers an interesting juncture in Stravinsky's composing career, in which he moved from a diatonic musical idiom to one based on twelve-tone technique ; the music of the ballet thus demonstrates a unique symbiosis of musical idioms. The ballet has no story, but consists of a series of dance movements in which various groups of dancers interact in pairs, trios, quartets, etc. A number of the movements are based on 17th-century French court dances — saraband , galliard and bransle.