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Paul Parish

romantic pas de deux for same-sex couples

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now that i've seen the newer posts: i do believe those kinds of descriptions ARE in beaumont's books (i am too lazy to check - but it sounds right to me), however, while i love that kind of observation myself, i always took it to be BEAUMONT'S analysis, not his reporting of petipa's intentions...you know, i just assumed that this is the way HE sees it - and it's marvellous, and revelatory analysis...but it MAY be just HIS view...

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Just in case others see my post about Serenade out of context -- or the comments by Leigh or Grace -- I hasten to say that I was using that as an example of the way a ballet with an all-male cast, where the men partner each other, or relate to each other physically, is interpreted by an audience differs from the way an all-female ballet is perceived. It was not a performance suggestion, nor a new analysis!

Grace, I got out "A Ballet Called Swan Lake" but couldn't find that passage -- I'd forgoten how detailed that book is. I did notice that he sometimes says, "I think" when describing the ballerina's facial expression, but the comments on choreography are more this is what is done here, that is what is done there. I can't remember -- it's something I read 25 years ago and filed in my "Swan Lake" file. But he did discuss this with so many dancers and balletmasters of the time, so even an opinion is more than a critical comment. I think.

Back to Paul's original question -- and picking up an earlier response by Leigh that talked about models for male-male duets being taken from contact improv -- what classical models are there? Is it possible to do this in classical ballet? If so, how?

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Originally posted by Alexandra

I certainly never think of Serenade as a Lesbian gang meeting.

No? Just wait until the copyright expires!

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A related question would be that it's not so easy to make a non-romantic male-female pas de deux...

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Very good point, Estelle! And a related point to that is when there have been non-romantic pas de deux for a man and a woman, current stage practice, and critical viewing, tries to turn them into something romantic. I'm thinking about the pas de trois for Elgar's wife, Elgar and a male friend that originally depicted comfort and friendship and now (reportedly; I haven't seen it) gives hints that the friend is sleeping with one or both of them, and that Ashton was either too shy or too emotionally constipated to make this overt.

I hope this is a phase, but if it is, it's been a long one.

The other problem is lack of what we call "out of the box" thinking. It's so easy to fall into following models: a ballet must have a romantic pas de deux. It's hard to break out of that.

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Are we talking about romantic, or sexual? (The Agon pas de deux is sexual but not romantic, for example.)

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And isn't that (ideally) the paradox in Bugaku?

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Back to romantic/sexual pas de deux for same sex couples, someone suggested Bintley's Edward II -- if not a model, it certainly is about a homosexual relationship.

Eifman springs to mind, too.

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Of course the most poignant moments between Edward and his lover came when the latter was reduced to a head inside a bloody bag....

Am I the only reader of this thread to whom the memory of Arpino's The Relativity of Icarus springs, unbidden? I remember Arpino saying quite emphatically that it had no nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know-what-I-mean? gay subtext. Perhaps there were even viewers who actually believed him.

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Yes, I remember Icarus with Ted Nelson as the father and Russell Sultzbach (and his red hair) as the son with Ann Marie De Angelo as the sun???? But as I was young, all I focused on was Ann Marie's tricks and the fact the Ted lifted Russell all over the place - I guess the places were what I was supposed to focus on.

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I think of another Icarus number in this context. John Butler once did such a piece for John Curry's Theatre of Skating back in the late seventies. (Okay, it's not ballet, but Curry's original ambition was to be a ballet dancer and I think we can award him honorary status.) Many years ago I saw some pirated footage of a part of it. Basically, Curry, wearing shorts and a sports-bra type thingie, floated around the ice, and then Daedalus came out on the ice for a pas de deux, and eventually Curry melted down, and while I have no idea if this was intentional or not, even to my very young eyes the homoerotic flavor was rather plain. (Keith Money photographed the piece for his book, so there are some evocative pictures extant.)

I don't mean to make fun of it, by the way. It was nervy of Curry to try such a thing, he got booed for it in Bristol, and no other skater in the world would have dreamed of doing it. As a teenager I was rather taken aback, though. Toto, I don't think we're in Ice Capades any more………….

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I think I recalled "Icarus" awhile back, I just messed up the title, confusing it with the "Orpheus" ballet which followed it. But we shouldn't forget the unusual mirrored set when we consider the former work. It was practically all of mirrored surfaces, so looking became a tactical decision!

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And let's not forget Songs of a Wayfarer. Or Bejart's rescension of Gaite Parisienne, with its male/male love story. Or remember how sometimes Bejart would have a woman (Farrell on one NYC visit I recall) dance the lead in his Bolero for a male audience, and sometimes a man (Donn) dance for a female audience, and then for a male audience. And this was years before Mark Morris, who obviously stole all of Bejart's good ideas (well, both of them) when he took over Bejart's theater....

It's a good thing I'm about to fall asleep or I'd start casting the male/male versions of all the classic old chestnuts, although I do think Adam Luders would've been a great Giselle.

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Paul's earlier comment

it would be great if they seemed to be representative people recognizably in love and not necessarily doomed
seems apropos here regarding Eifman and Bintley's work with homosexuality to date.

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Manhattnik: "I'd start casting the male/male versions of all the classic old chestnuts"...

- let's DO it!

and about bolero (bejart's): i never even thought of the fact, before now, that he never offered a female object of desire for a female 'audience' - or did he?

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I am not so sure about Paul Parish's 'shimmer of ecstacy' in Swan Lake. In the Supplement to Beaumont's Complete Book of Ballets he says the following about petits battements (and other things) in Swan Lake:

"The small circular movement of the head used by birds to preen their neck and breast feathers; the use of the arms curved to the sides like folded wings; the arms outstretched and fluttering like wings; THE USE OF PETITS BATTEMENTS TO SUGGEST THE TREMBLING OF A WING-TIP OR THE FREEING OF A LEG FROM TINY DROPS OF WATER; are all adaptations of bird behavior."

I wonder what old C.W. would have made of all this.

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Good question, atm. Poor CW. He spent his life trying to write the ballets down, assuming that future generations would want to stage the work, not "ballet using the music and names of the characters from Swan Lake No. 503."

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There is a male-male pas de deux in Bejart's Firebird, with an unusual 'flying' pose at the end that I guess could be read as a metaphor, if you want to go there. I think the choreography of that pas de deux is an excellent onstage 'bird' representation, definitely more convincing than Balanchine's generic lady in a red tutu.

These days, Bolero is always performed with a male corps and either a male or female soloist...I don't know if it was ever done using only women, but that would be interesting to find out. Perhaps one of my friends would know.

Also from the Bejart repertoire is a pas de deux of two men in a work I forget the name of, but I think it's to a tango, and appears to be more about 'blood brothers' than sexuality, though it is an intense piece.

On a more classical note, Laurencia includes...not really a pas de deux, but a dance for two men. However, they don't even look at each other, so maybe they're clones. The Ocean and Pearls Pas de Trois from The Little Humpbacked Horse has a cute female duet as well, but again, it's more like sisters or playmates.

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Remember that the working concept of Bejart's "Firebird" was the Maqui of WWII - the French Underground against the Nazis, particularly the saboteur arm of that organization. The "flying" metaphor could stand for a lot of stuff.

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A ballet with a military theme might be ideally suited to our purpose. An enterprising choreographer might even be able to insert a short-arm inspection. :)

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Now you've jogged my memory. Back in 1969, I believe it was, the Joffrey did a ballet called "Elegy", music by Andrezej Panufnik, choreography by Gerald Arpino. The story was of a Confederate officer brought to execution (what he did to merit that is not quite clear - he must have been a spy out of uniform, and has been permitted to wear it to his execution, but then, he'd hang and not be in front of a firing squad, but I digress). The major part of the ballet was flashback, involving the soldier, Maxilimiliano Zomosa, his wife, Noel Mason, his daughter, Charthel Arthur, and his son, Peter Kahrmann (an actual small boy). There was a lot of establishing what these people meant to one another; a lot of partnering went on between Max and Peter, largely involving the son's standing with both feet on one of his father's shoulders, and other assorted oddments that you couldn't do with an adult, even a short one. The flashback faded away at the end, back to the firing squad.

Now as to a choreographer who would incorporate a short-arm inspection into a ballet, we'd need a choreographer with a complete lack of taste and good sense. I suggest myself.;)

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I actually had to do a google search to confirm that meant what I was afraid that meant.

You learn something new every day. Whether you want to or not.

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That story rings a bell, Mel -- is it Ambrose Bierce? And I think it was a short film, too. One ballet I don't think would be on my short list for revivals :)

As for the term, since this is a family site, we won't discuss it further (although you've all been wondrously discreet so far) :)

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"Incident at Owl Creek" sounds likethe story it was based on....

A few years back, here in San Francisco, Joe Goode did a beautiful duet with a prodigy-gymnast, who was still quite a small and delicate-looking boy but was fearless, talented, and highly trained-- the boy's name is Willis Bigelow, he's a dancer as well as a gymnast....

the dance was a kind of "whoops-a-boy" thing, like an idealized memory from your childhood of having fun with your father -- there were some fantastic lifts and even more fantastic tosses and catches, and hte sentiment was playful, loving, and true-to-life -- the kid wanted his dad to really swing him, and it was roller-coaster exciting, while at the same time the choreography was such that it was emotionally startling -- what I mean is, it didn't just look like fancy tricks, the phrases were actually lyrical and hte tricks were worked in so they didn't look like tricks but had dramatic impact.... SO there was a kind of family romance to that, wholesome and bittersweet....

I'm also waiting to see a short ballet romantic duet for 2 men, suitable for a gala, to "There's a place for us"

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The story does sound like "The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge", but we may never know for sure, as James Howell, who did a lot of story concept for Arpino in those days, is dead.

Kahrmann still remembers his part, and his interrelation with the other members of the cast. He actually collected the strongest positive review of the production from Walter Terry, writing in the old Saturday Review. A problem would be in getting music to work with. It's a Panufnik symphony (#3?), which is not currently available in recorded form. There were some witty and observant things in this production, a small example being the hoop skirts worn by the ensemble women which were so long that they required the wearers to glide along in bourrées en pointe if they were not to drag their hems on the ground.

It might make my list for revivals, as Civil War reenactors are a fairly sizeable minority audience, but they might do what I did in my initial memory of the work, e.g. "That blouse is the wrong cut! What kind of rifle-muskets are those, they don't look right?! Where did they get those dinky shoes? and so forth...."

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