Balanchine’s tribute to the refined elegance of Japanese music and dance originated in visits by New York City Ballet to Japan in 1958 and by the Gagaku Company of the Imperial Household to the United States in 1959. In 1962, Balanchine commissioned Mayuzumi to compose music suggesting Bugaku, the dance portion of a Gagaku performance, but using Western instrumentation. The red, green, and white of the setting, the balanced dances to the left and the right, the stylized movement, the ritualistic mood, the respect shown for the dance, and the supreme courtesy of the dancers to each other are faithful to Gagaku traditions. The intricacy of the pas de deux and the variety of movement are characteristic of the choreographer.
Toshiro Mayuzumi (1929-1997) was educated at the Tokyo University of Art and Music and the Paris Conservatory. His music has been published and performed in the United States, England, and Europe.