Ever since Jerome Robbins had directed the opera, The Tender Land, he and Copland had wanted to work together again. Robbins asked him for ballet music, and Copland created a piano score. Robbins said, "A strange thing happened. When I began working with the company, I got interested in what they were doing with just the counts and without the music. I was sorry I wasn't able to do Dance Panels." The music was revised later for use by another ballet company. Finally, it became an orchestral work in seven contrasting sections.
-Vivian Perlis, 1998