Born in Boston, Damian Woetzel began taking dance lessons at age four. From the age of seven he was enrolled at the Boston Ballet School where he appeared frequently in the Boston Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. In 1983, at the age of 15, his family moved to Los Angeles, where he joined the Los Angeles Ballet and graduated from high school the same year; in 1984 he became a Principal Dancer with the Los Angeles Ballet. In December, 1984 Mr. Woetzel became a student at the School of American Ballet, and less than six months later, he joined the New York City Ballet's corps. In 1989 he was promoted to Soloist and later that year was promoted to Principal Dancer. Mr. Woetzel has originated roles in works by Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Eliot Feld, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and Richard Tanner. He has choreographed ballets for the School of American Ballet's Workshop in 1992 and 1993, and collaborated with Twyla Tharp on a special project at City Center. Passing By was performed at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in 1993.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), born in Russia, is acknowledged as one of the great composers of the 20th century. His work encompassed styles as diverse as Romanticism, Neoclassicism and Serialism. His ballets for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes included The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, and Apollo. His music has been used in over thirty ballets originating with New York City Ballet from 1948 through 1987, including Danses Concertantes, Orpheus, The Cage, Agon, Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Rubies, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Suite from Histoire du Soldat, Concertino, and Jeu de Cartes. The Ebony Concerto was commissioned by Woody Herman. Stravinsky had to compose it in a hurry, since the concert for which it was needed was already scheduled. He studied recordings of the Herman band and had someone demonstrate the saxophone "fingerings" for him. Stravinsky's "plan was to write a jazz concerto grosso with a blues slow movement." He had heard jazz played in Harlem, and by "Negro" bands in Chicago and New Orleans, and "blues" meant African culture to him — the "ebony" of the title means "African" not "clarinet". Stravinsky did not conduct the premiere, but did conduct at the recording of the piece several weeks later. He said of this experience, "What I remember most clearly was the smoke in the recording studio. When the musicians did not blow horns they blew smoke ... the atmosphere looked like Pernod clouded by water."