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What are the most "erotic" ballets?

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Today's LINKS contains an article from the Telegraph (UK) discussing "Le Parc", a new sexually charged ballet by Angelin Preljocaj, to be performed in London by Paris Opera Ballet. At the end of the article is a list of 5 ballets that, in the writer's opinion, qualify for the label "erotic."

QUOTE: "Sex on legs: five erotic ballets


Kenneth Macmillan was the master of sleazy bodice-ripping melodrama. In 1978, he produced this sensational treatment of the doomed relationship between the morphine-addicted Crown Prince Rudolf of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the sex-crazed teenager Mary Vetsera. For sheer graphic X-rated intensity, their obsessive pas de deux have never been surpassed.

The Lesson

Originally made for television in 1963, Flemming Flindt's subtle adaptation of Ionesco's play shows a psychotic ballet teacher becoming so aroused by his innocent pupil's classroom performance that he ends up murdering her. The twist is a suggestion that he's a serial killer, and that the strait-laced rehearsal pianist is complicit in his perversity. Currently in the repertory of the Royal Ballet.

Afternoon of a Faun

Set to Debussy's languorous tone poem, this short but enthrallingly erotic ballet by Jerome Robbins was choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1953 and has since become a classic. In an empty studio, two dancers practise in front of the mirror, narcissistically absorbed in their own physical perfection until a final fleeting kiss breaks the spell.

One Charming Night

This haunting duet by Mark Morris, first seen in 1985, shows a girl waiting alone until a suited man appears and shows off his best ballet steps to her. The girl is fascinated, the man hesitates. Then he passionately bites her neck and forces her to suck blood from his wrist. She becomes hysterical, but it is too late. Elegant music by Purcell makes a striking counterpoint to this chilling parable of vampirism.


The Ancient Greek word for struggle or contest. To Stravinsky's courtly and astringent score, 12 dancers in practice clothes compete for sexual supremacy in Balanchine's supremely formal yet insidiously vicious ballet, dating from 1957 but still shockingly modern. The climax is a mesmerisingly erotic pas de deux in which the ballerina perches like a potent bird of prey, supported by the hand of her watchful partner, who lies prostrate on the floor." UNQUOTE.

The gap between the erotic component of Faun and Mayerling is quite vast, it seems to me. Not least is the question of music: the gentlest of Ravel versus the blowsiest of Lizst. It's interesting that Preljocaj seems to be following Robbins' musical intuition, setting his dance to lyrical bits of Mozart, just as Morris chose Purcell, and -- in an entirely different use of contrast -- Balanchine chose Stravinsky.

The list has gotten me thinking about the nature of "erotic" -- especially as it can be expressed by dancers on a legitimate ballet stage.

What do you think of this list or the idea of erotic ballet in general? Which ballets would you add or delete?

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IMHO, "The Lesson" needs to be deleted from all ballet company's repertoire. What a way to promote ballet lessons for the next generation and to have it considered erotic shows more than poor taste. I guess erotic is in the eye of the beholder! I do not see the humor in the Telegraph's listing of this ballet. I have never seen it, but perhaps the glorious movement might have found it's way into another title/subject matter to the same music? Who is the composer?

Disappointed here in Florida! :angry2::lightbulb::ermm: :giveup: :yahoo:

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Georges Delerue was a composer of film music, who scored over 300 movies, including some directed by Renais, Truffault, Malle, and Godard. He won an Academy Award in 1980.

I also found that Ballet San Jose performed The Lesson last spring. And that Monica Mason did not permit it to be peformed at Royal Ballet matinees. I was surprised, after reading some of the shocked responses at the first performances, to find quite respectful reviews as well.

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I'd second Agon and Faun, but my #1's are The Wrens in Union Jack, as lead by Suzanne Farrell or Maria Kowroski. And Swan Lake: Odette, as danced by Veronika Part and Marcello Gomes; Odile, as danced by Irina Dvorovenko, Sylvie Guillem, Cynthia Gregory.

Special mention to most of Balanchine's choreography for Suzanne. The adagio of his Symphony in C, with Suzanne and Peter Martins, and currently with Maria K.

Of the ballets "intended" to be erotic, most seem heavy-handed, but I think Manon succeeds, in part because it acts like a magnet in attracting such great dance-actresses as Guillem, Vishneva, Ferri, and Cojocaru. MacMillan's R & J and Cranko's Onegin and Taming of the Shrew, too.

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Afternoon of a Faun

Set to Debussy's languorous tone poem, this short but enthrallingly erotic ballet by Jerome Robbins was choreographed for New York City Ballet in 1953 and has since become a classic. In an empty studio, two dancers practise in front of the mirror, narcissistically absorbed in their own physical perfection until a final fleeting kiss breaks the spell.

. . . but no mention of its predecessor, Nijinsky's "L'apres-midi d'un Faune"? :yahoo:

Anything (yes, anything!) danced by Susan Jaffe with Jose Carreno. Hans, in Sleeping Beauty's Act III pdd, she took the opportunity when he kneels to support her as she penchees, to kiss his lips. On paper, I don't like it, but on stage it produced the intended charge :lightbulb: .

Balanchine: Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Liebeslieder Walzer.

Tudor: Pillar of Fire.

Not ballet but strangely enough, considering how asexual most of his work is, perhaps the most erotic performance I've ever seen was Paul Taylor's Largo danced by Lila York and Chris Gillis.

I agree that the more blatant the attempt at eroticism, the more likely it is to fail. And I emphatically agree with vrs re: The Lesson. Neurotic, certainly; erotic, certainly not!

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I'm surprised in a way that The Lesson is listed in this rather silly classification as "erotic". I've seen the piece danced by a number of companies with a variety of casts (Henning Kronstam was very, very good in it) but I had never thought there was a sexual element in it. Rather it was that The Professor was infuriated by the stupidity and presumption of The Pupil and - being a raving maniac - for that he murders her.

The ballet used to be in the repertoire of Scottish Ballet but hadn't been seen in the UK for many years until Johan Kobborg included it in a programme he put together which comprised a number of Danish choreographies. Cojocaru played the pupil with Kobborg as the Professor and yes, there was an erotic element in that performance, which would have been the first time that most of the British critics writing today would have seen the piece. So now it's taken as the gold standard, but I thought it was totally wrong.

Roberta Marquez who gave the first performance as The Pupil in the Royal Ballet production has been castigated in the press as being out of sympathy with the ballet but to my mind she was excellent. There was no hint of prcocious sexuality; she was the architype of the infant wonder, the "little Pavlova", star of the Dolly Dinkle school of dance. If there was a problem to my mind it was Kobborg who was too young and lacked the authority that someone like Kronstam or Nureyev brought to the character.

It's not a great ballet, but it's very theatrical and it can be very effective.

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"Slaughter" is rather peculiar in this regard. There is a minimum of direct contact between the Stripper and the Hoofer. "Lesson", with its stream of sadism, is erotic, but not most people's idea of eroticism. "Agon", which after all means "the contest" or even "the examination", is the Battle of the Sexes carried to a stylised extreme through the double filter of pre-classic dance forms and the Stravinsky/Balanchine Moderne aesthetic. (A side note-I find it somewhat humorous that the score, which once was considered one of the most difficult to approach as music, is now comparatively accessible to most audiences and performers alike. It's not EASY, but it's accessible!)

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La ronde, anyone? Or is that more jaded than erotic?

I've never seen the ballet The Lesson but Ionesco's play was not even remotely sexy. The professor is seriously disturbed, but not in that way. I wonder where this journalist is getting his or her facts from?

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Did the writer use two hands or one to type this list? To stick Agon and The Lesson on a list of erotic ballets makes me wonder how the author is watching and what. Yes, ballet is erotic, sensual and sexual all in varying degrees. But if you want erotica, rent porn. You go to a ballet to have all your senses aroused, not just your crotch.

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I saw The Lesson a number of times and I didn't see anything erotic about it unless you are into sadism. It is pure abuse of power. There may be something phallic about pointe shoes (as I recall, it is when the pupil wants to dance on pointe that the Teacher goes out of control) but in that case virtually every classic ballet would be erotic, too! It is very effective and surreal - especially with the distortions in the class room mirrors. It is hardly meant to reflect on ballet training - except metaphorically, of course.

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i've been 'away' (from the internet) for a long time, so i'm going back, reading threads i missed out on...this one caught my eye.

it's interesting because of the different ways people have responded. my thoughts on ballets specifically mentioned already:

agon: hmm..well..i never thought of it this way, but i certainly could see it now that 'you' say that...

bugaku does nothing for me.

sleeping beauty...hmm...???

manon &/or mayerling: - definitely not. to me they are definitely sexual - but that is not the same as erotic.

as came up on some of the threads about toni bentley's more recent writings, 'eroticism' is a very personally defined quality, isn't it?

various other works mentioned i have not seen.

to me, an exquisite performance of any really good ballet can be perhaps 'erotic', in that it is an arousal of the senses at the finest, purest, highest level - like spirituality...wooh! now THERE's a challenging concept!

wonder what leigh in particular might say to that? (because i respect his thoughts).

the ballet which instantly comes to my mind when the word 'erotic' is mentioned, is a work by choo san goh, which i saw performed by singapore dance theatre in conjunction with hong kong ballet (about 8 years ago). maybe it had 'birds' in its title?

one reason that i particularly recall this ballet, is because i was reviewing it, but my editor was also with me at the performance. *i* found it erotic - its delicacy, somehow - and the balletmaster (an american, whose name i can't recall, who i assumed to be gay) agreed with me.

the editor, however, couldn't see this/didn't feel this, AND DELETED THIS OBSERVATION from my review - which ticked me off!

it has been exceedingly rare for her to 'censor' my writing. and there was no doubt in my mind that t wasn't 'just me' viewing it THAT WAY. the balletmaster person had been in a position to see/know most of goh's work, so i respected his opinion.

so, the editor - having heard him agree with me - must have felt strongly that we were BOTH wrong, in order to censor that comment...wierd!

i'd love to see that work - and ANYTHING by goh - again.

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Grace, could it have been "Birds of Paradise"? Washington Ballet used to perform Goh's works quite often, as I believe he was their resident choreographer, or at least had some sort of strong association with the company. Haven't seen his work on their programs for quite some time now, though. He choreographed the Chinese Tea dance in Mary Day's Nutcracker (which they don't perform anymore).

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