Happy Birthday to Stravinsky With Gorgeous Photos From His Ballets

Above: A 1972 New York City Ballet performance of the Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D, choreographed by George Balanchine.

Igor Stravinsky, a self-described “inventor of music,” would have turned 132 years old today, were he alive, yet even today much of his music has retained its modernist edge.

Stravinsky was a visionary composer from the get-go. His early “Russian” ballets redefined the cutting edge, and in the steady stream of style changes he made throughout his career, Stravinsky never treaded water, much less stepped backwards – even when, as in works like Pulcinella, he gathered inspiration from the music of earlier times.

To recognize Stravinsky’s birthday, LIFE.com assembled a slideshow of some of photographer Gjon Mili’s images taken of Stravinsky’s ballets while danced by the New York City Ballet in 1972, not long after Stravinsky’s death. Of course, movement can never be captured without destroying it – it will never be possible to catch that wave upon the sand. But Mili’s photographs do the next best thing, marshaling as they do stroboscopic lighting technology to preserve the shapely contours of movement by bringing out their sizzle and swoop in an astonishing array of gorgeous living color.

View Gjon Mili’s Stravinsky ballet photos.

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