Stravinsky’s Agon is a dastardly complex score, serialist, polyphonic, polyrhythmic, you name it, and Balanchine’s choreography takes no easy ways out. But that’s just the technical challenge of the piece, not its object. As the incomparable Pat Neary tried to explain to dancers at the Deutsche Oper Berlin when she was putting it on there, there’s room for lightness and humour (not her words exactly, but you get the drift). With her inimitable combination of humour and humanity (she describes herself as ‘Bette Midler on pointe’) she came out with this:
“A lot of people think this is a serious ballet because you have to count’.
As well as advice against misconstruing Agon, it’s also the sharpest pin with which to deflate so many works which have pretensions to seriousness on the basis of complexity alone.