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Paul Parish

romantic pas de deux for same-sex couples

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Revisiting Paul's original query:

I was listening to a favorite pop artist tonight, Stephin Merritt and one of his incarnations, the Magnetic Fields. Merritt is openly gay - although so sullen about it (and life in general) it's almost comic and very New York; if people talk about his gayness, you simply couldn't mistake which sense they meant it. There's only one possible meaning of the word with him.

He's also a great pasticheur. In 1999, he came out with a triple CD set, 69 Love Songs, which is just that - 69 songs about love in as many genres as possible from folk rock to ballad to tin pan alley to punk to eurosynth to pop to rock and roll to scottish folk to. . .

One of the songs, "When my Boy Walks Down the Street" is a rock song done in a late 60's - early 70's style - fuzzy guitars and big sound. It's done absolutely straight (erm, so to speak) except with lines like "Amazing, he's a whole new form of life/Blue eyes blazing, and he's going to be my wife."

The song works. He's taken a convention and our expectations and turned it on its head, but at the same time he's stuck to the form, and you can tell he really likes the form. The words are different, the sounds are the same.

I know I said earlier that the conventions of ballet leave it without a vocabulary to deal with same sex partnering. Maybe with a little audacity and a lot of affection that can be turned into a virtue. Start with something simple and less earth shattering than lifts, supported turns, or costuming. How one person asks another person to dance; how one person offers his/her hand - how another person receives it. It's one of the most beautiful things in ballet. Now mix up the genders, but do it with the same courtliness and gallantry that ballet always has. Don't fuss over it, just do it.

What would something as simple as that say? I wouldn't know if it worked until I got into a room (with the right dancers) and tried it, but maybe taking the most loved conventions of ballet and hewing to them with genuine affection has possibilities of its own.

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It's a shame this idea didn't interest Ashton, because his male-male danced conversations were so direct and so natural -- but father/son, friend/friend. But the convention he used in "Enigma Variations" might work here. Each character begins his/her dancing with a walk, and the walk defines the character. The walk very quickly leads into dancing, (walk walk walk dance) and the dancing grows out of the walk. I thought it an ingenious way to denote character -- and it goes along wiith what Leigh was saying above.

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And it proceeds from things that Elgar and Jaeger used to do together. They'd go for long walks on which they would do nothing else except discuss Beethoven. People coming upon them found the conversation impenetrable and uninterruptable!

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leigh, I hope you do that dance.....

and certainly, that moment of offering the hand is big drama and he approach to it can be so sensitive -- the pas de deux in Diamonds, the pas de deux in Robbins Ravel Piano COncerto in G MAjor, there's such courtship in the approach and retreat before the hand is ever offered....

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Although it's not "ballet" in the strictest sense of the word, Mark Morris' "The Hard Nut" does contain a very moving pas de deux for Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker Prince. Is it romantic? I'm not sure, but it is certainly very tender -- and the word "doomed" has never once entered my mind while watching it (although "farewell" has). I think it's one of the high points of the whole evening -- along with that fabulous and fabulously joyful dance of the snowflakes.

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True, Kathleen; there are a lot of examples in modern and contemporary dance, but it seems as though no one has yet figured out how to use the ballet vocatulary to do a romantic pas de deux for two men.

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Kathleen, I agree with you, that pas de deux is one of hte most beautiful and mysterious dances in that wonderful ballet -- and (unlike say, the hilarious but VERY modern-dance-y Waltz of the Flowers) it is very classical -- turned-out, lifted, a supported adage with slow grand pirouettes with grand extensions....

I don't know how to begin to say this, but it also seems a truly profound dance: partly because it happens to that deeply mysterious music, but even more because the dance seems to be a tremendously powerful ritual-transformation -- it's like a birth, the young man comes into being, becomes real somehow, in that dance. I don't know how to describe my feeling, except to say that it was TREMENDOUSLY important: Drosselmeyer's love for Clara (uh, Marie) is being poured forth and, being embodied in the youth, receives an acceptable separate life of its own, which is draining for Drosselmeyer but necessary, and the dance has the flavor of Hindu-buddhist myth -- like a reincarnation happening before our eyes, as if the youth is somehow an emanation of Drosselmeyer and emerges as a manifest separate entity in the course of hte dance, like Krishna as a manifestation of Vishnu --

So in a way it's a romance, but not one in which two become one but rather one in which one becomes two, with God's blessing....

Something like that.....

It's also got an element of renunciation, as if he's giving up his love for the youth to give her to Clara, as when the Marschallin gives up Octavian to Sophie in der Rosenkavalier... the older folk are making way for the new and literally sending them on their way..... THe Marschallin actually says "in Gottes Namen" as she does it. I feel there's some such spirit in Drosselmeyer's action.

Well, there's more mystery .. since the whole duet is repeated heterosexually (to different music, but almost exactly the same movements) at the end of the ballet as the climactic pas de deux for the young man and Marie.... where it "means" something else, and certainly feels different, though it still feels so tender, esp to revisit that lovely moment where "she" balances leaning her cheek on his hand....

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