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The Russian-born composer, conductor and pianist Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) remains, five decades after his death, a towering figure in 20th century music. If he had written the music for only one of the three ballets for which he is best known — The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913) — he would still be celebrated today. That he wrote all three of those masterpieces, in the space of just a few years, ensures his musical immortality.
Here, on the great musician’s birthday (b. June 17, 1882, in Lomonosov, Russia), LIFE.com pays tribute to Stravinsky through photos made in 1972 by Gjon Mili. The pictures capture dancers from George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet as they bring to life a series of dance works — 21 of them, based on Stravinsky’s music — created by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.