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One of Balanchine’s greatest masterpieces, Concerto Barocco is music made visible as two elegant yet dynamic lead ballerinas each depict one of the instrumental soloists in a virtuosic double violin concerto.
Concerto Barocco had its beginnings as a School of American Ballet exercise and was first performed for the Latin American tour of the American Ballet Caravan in 1941. When it entered the repertory of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1945, the dancers were dressed in practice clothes, probably the first appearance of what has come to be regarded as the modern ballet costume pioneered by Balanchine.
Concerto Barocco was presented on the first performance of New York City Ballet in 1948, along with Balanchine's Orpheus and Symphony in C. It is considered the quintessential Balanchine ballet of its period, its manner entirely pure, its choreography no more, and no less, than an ideal response to its score, Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D Minor. About the ballet, the critic Clive Barnes wrote, "The three hallmarks of the American classic style are poetry, athleticism, and musicality, and these three graces are exquisitely exploited by Concerto Barocco."
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