Race, Gender, and a Modernist Masterpiece: Looking at Balanchine’s Agon

In 1957, George Balanchine and his fellow Russian émigré Igor Stravinsky astonished audiences with their revolutionary ballet Agon for the New York City Ballet. With a score combining French Renaissance dance melodies and twelve-tone invention, Agon's diverse cast wore simple black-and-white practice clothes and performed with unadorned clarity on a spare stage, laying bare the tensions of the civil rights movement, the struggles for gender equality, and the anxiety of the Cold War era. The dancing has an acute sense of competitive risk and elegant athleticism, with the pulse and energy of New York City itself. Balanchine ballerina Heather Watts puts this masterwork of abstraction in the context of its time and ours.

Speakers: Heather Watts
Festival: 2016

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