Music: By Igor Stravinsky (1953-56, commissioned by the New York City Ballet with funds from the Rockefeller Foundation and dedicated to Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine).
Choreography: By George Balanchine.
Production: Lighting by Nananne Porcher.
Premiere: December 1, 1957, New York City Ballet, City Center of Music and Drama, New York.
Conductor: Leon Barzin. (Preview: March of Dimes Benefit, November 27.)
Cast: PART I: PAS DE QUATRE: 4 men; DOUBLE PAS DE QUATRE: 8 women; TRIPLE PAS DE QUATRE: 8 women, 4 men; PART II: FIRST PAS DE TROIS: SARABANDE: Todd Bolender; GAILLIARD: Barbara Milberg, Barbara Walczak; CODA: Milberg, Walczak, Bolender; SECOND PAS DE TROIS: BRANSLE SIMPLE: Roy Tobias, Jonathan Watts; BRANSLE GAY: Melissa Hayden; BRANSLE DOUBLE (DE POITOU): Hayden, Tobias, Watts; PAS DE DEUX: Diana Adams, Arthur Mitchell; PART III: DANSE DES QUATRE DUOS: 4 duos; DANSE DES QUATRE TRIOS: 4 trios; CODA: 4 men.
Agon is the Greek word for contest; the movements of the ballet are named after French court dances. Although when commissioned the work was intended to complete a triad of ballets (with Apollo and Orpheus) on Greek themes, Stravinsky and Balanchine later noted that the historical references are pretexts. The composer and the choreographer together designed the structure of the ballet during the creation of the music. The outline for the score specifies in detail, with exact timings, the basic movements for twelve dancers.
Film: 1973, RM Productions; 1978, The Film Company, Peter Martins: A Dancer (PAS DE DEUX [excerpt]);1989, Seahorse Films, Dancing for Mr. B (PAS DE DEUX [excerpt]).
Video/DVD: 1995, Nonesuch, The Balanchine Library:Dancing for Mr. B (PAS DE DEUX [excerpt]); 1996, Nonesuch, The Balanchine Library: The Balanchine Celebration, Part Two (FIRST PAS DE TROIS, SECOND PAS DE TROIS, PAS DE DEUX ); 2001, Kultur, Peter Martins: A Dancer (PAS DE DEUX [excerpt]); 2002, George Balanchine Foundation, Music Dances: Balanchine Choreographs Stravinsky (FIRST PAS DE TROIS; BRANSLE GAY; PAS DE DEUX ); 2004, Kultur, Balanchine (PAS DE QUATRE [partial], PAS DE DEUX); 2008, City Lights Media, Bringing Balanchine Back: The Historic Return to Russia (PAS DE DEUX [excerpt]); 2014 Video Artists International, New York City Ballet in Montreal, Vol. 2 (complete recorded 1960).
Archival Video: George Balanchine Foundation Interpreters Archive (PAS DE DEUX), 2005.
Revisions: 1960, New York City Ballet: GAILLIARD rechoreographed; 1970s, final arm sequence in GAILLIARD changed; final pose of ballet (in CODA) changed--four men face toward back of stage (repeating opening pose) rather than each other, following Stravinsky's original schematic manuscript indications in the outline for the score.