On a stage mimicking a rehearsal studio, Scènes de Ballet displays 62 student dancers and their implied reflections in the mirror as they perfect their craft.
Christopher Wheeldon's second work for New York City Ballet, Scènes de Ballet, is set in a Russian ballet studio (designed by Ian Falconer), a slightly skewed classroom bisected by a barre and an imaginary mirror. The dancers — 62 School of American Ballet students ranging from the very young to the soon-to-graduate — are similarly divided between "real" dancers and their "reflections." This classically inspired ballet displays what one critic has called "a bracingly confident fusion of George Balanchine's structured clarity with the sunny lyricism of Frederick Ashton."
Stravinsky said his music for Scènes de Ballet was free of any literary or dramatic intentions and that "the parts follow each other as in a sonata or in a symphony in contrasts and similarities." He did, however, specify different dances for the 11 parts of his score. Stravinsky, who was living in Hollywood at the time, originally wrote Scènes de Ballet for a review called "The Seven Lively Arts," presented by showman Billy Rose at the Ziegfield Theatre in New York City on December 7, 1944. The leading roles were danced by Anton Dolin (who had choreographed the piece) and Alicia Markova. Since then, the score has been used by a number of choreographers, including John Taras (for New York City Ballet's 1972 Stravinsky Festival) and Frederick Ashton who, in 1948, created a ballet for Margot Fonteyn, Michael Somes and a corps de ballet.