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Diana and Acteon

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I believe this pas de deux has been discussed here before but I'm struggling with the search engine. Lots of interesting photos from rg but I can't find a discussion of the ballet.

I'm very confused. Didn't Diana turn Acteon into a stag and set his own hounds on him when he discovered her bathing with her nymphs? I can't follow how this relationship ended up as a spectacular pas de deux... perhaps I can see Acteon's gravity defying leaps evoking a stag, but not his partnering of Diana...

I realize a grand pas de deux is not expected to tell a story, but I'm still having trouble understanding them cast "as a couple".

Could someone explain? My apologies if the question is childish.

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i'm no whiz at re-locating/searching back discussions.

essentially i think it has been noted here that the so-called DIANA AND AKTEON PAS DE DEUX had it's beginnings in a Pas de Trois from petipa's TSAR KANDAVL' (a.k.a. Le Roi Candaule) - this dance involved Diana, Endymion and a satyr - Balanchivadze is known to have danced the satyr - Pavlova, Diana.

the fact that Diana punished Acteon by turning him into a stag and that his own hounds tore him to pieces doesn't really dovetail with the celebration pas de deux we know from the concert dance circuit after vaganova interpolated it into her 1930s staging of ESMERALDA.

it could therefore be assumed that somehow vaganova got her names and characters mixed up. and somehow a dance that once had what one supposes was a decorous partner and a more active, athletic secondary male dancer attending a ballerina, ended up with a single dancer male dancer re-christened Acteon partnering and attending a diana/ballerina. or something like this, perhaps.

if someone can locate previous discussions on this topic in ballettalk maybe more information is there.

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It does seem that a dancer playing Endymion who was perhaps most famous for his sleeping, would dance decorously....

Thanks rg.

I do enjoy the pas de deux nonsensical though it may be.

Rats... now I'm picturing Endymion sleeping somewhere onstage, hopefully not being trampled by barrel turning satyr...

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barrel turning satyr...

Wouldn't that be more in the line of Silenus, the god of Beer Buddies and Drinking Companions? He, of myth, was a satyr who taught Dionysus how to tie one on, balance a wine cup on his nose, and how to open a bottle of beer with your teeth. For this, Zeus made him immortal. Go figure. He's bald-headed, fat, hairy, and drunk all the time. I think I know him.

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Rats... now I'm picturing Endymion sleeping somewhere onstage, hopefully not being trampled by barrel turning satyr...

Not that this relates directly to Diana and Acteon, but John Neumeier's Sylvia includes a pas de deux for Diana and Endymion in which he is obviously supposed to be sleepwalking. I wonder what sort of approach Petipa adopted.

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it could therefore be assumed that somehow vaganova got her names and characters mixed up. and somehow a dance that once had what one supposes was a decorous partner and a more active, athletic secondary male dancer attending a ballerina, ended up with a single dancer male dancer re-christened Acteon partnering and attending a diana/ballerina. or something like this, perhaps.

if someone can locate previous discussions on this topic in ballettalk maybe more information is there.

Given the era the pas de deux was created in, I suggest that Vaganova may have had her eye on the political climate. It was more fitting to portray two physical hero types(ie Hunters) to fit in with those heroic posters of Soviet young people striving for communism that adorned the major cities. The dreamer Endymion would not have fought to save the motherland as a hunter might have done. Vaganova mixed the original story further by using the Roman name of Diana(in Greek legend Artemis) with the Greek named shepherd Acteon. Perhaps Artemis and Acteon did not sound so heroic especially as Diana the huntress had more famously survived as a feminine heroic icon in art and sculpture .

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no other guesses toward understanding vaganova's DIANA&AKETON have made more sense than this one.

it seems quite right as background for this mixed up showpiece of an interpolation into ESMERALDA from TSAR KANDAVL'

information in my books is scant about Petipa's 1868 ballet based on LE ROI KANDAULE, which has lately fascinated me, not least of which because of its LES AMOURS DE DIANE dance as well as for its somewhat even more famous PAS DE VENUS.

nijinska writes about pavlova's standing in the wings as nijinsky scampered about as the satyr and reports that anna p. was concerned, in what are taken to be tones of jealousy, that vaslav n. was getting more applause than she herself was given, or something like this, i haven't re-read the passage recently.

the RUSSIAN BALLET ENCLYCLOPEDIA gives no cast names beyond those of the topmost leading characters - which excludes those dancing the individual venus and diana numbers.

a somewhat distressed casting poster from 1875 in moscow, where petipa's ballet was evidently presented soon after its petersburg premiere is of only a little help. the ballerina dancing diana has disappeared into a crease in the poster, the endymion is one Spiridon Aleksandrovich LITAVKIN, who it would seem retired from bolshoi service this very year (1875, which marked his 20th year of service, thus leading one to suspect the dancing was of minimal demands?). (the satyr was danced by Vladimir Alekseivich SHASHKIN, whose repertory also included Ivanushka (in LITTLE HUMPBACKED HORSE), Said-Pasha (in CORSAIRE) and Sancho Panza (in DON QUIXOTE).

closer to home, the same book that reproduces the 1875 TSAR K poster includes one from 1922 for a concert dance performance at the Bolshoi Th. led by the Bolshoi Ballet's Juilette Mendess. this included the participation of visiting petrodgrad dancers Elsa Vill and the handsome and noble Viktor Semyonov (who ended up teaching at the petrograd state academy and who then became Marina Semyonova's husband). LES AMOURS DE DIANA (called LIUBOV DIANE) was given as an 'concert number' on this mixed program, and was danced by Vill as Diana, Semyonov as Endymion, and the one Georgi Balanchivadze as the Satyr!)

meanwhile i've scanned an "art" postcard of one of Diana's images in Russian around 1900 and another of the elegant Semyonov.


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Thanks Mel, his name had escaped me.

Very nice line on Semyonov in the photo.

I find it interesting that Nijinsky danced a Satyr before Apres Midi d'un Faun.

I was wondering too if, feminism or no, the imagery of the hounds & Acteon might not be just a little too threatening to some power figure out there. (I have no idea of who the politcal players of the time were, or if any of them were involved with female dancers).

The part of Silenus sounds like a plum for a variety of casting possibilities, Mel.

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more specifically, when he was still a student, nijinsky danced one of the (four?) fauns in fokine's 1905 ACIS AND GALATEA, thus even earlier than his satyr in TSAR K.

i think most of nijinsky's biographers and most memiorists contemporary with nijinsky connect this student faun to the dancer/choreographer's later L'APRES-MIDI D'UN FAUNE.

certainly krassovskaya does, and probably buckle, with nijinska and bourman following similar suit. (i haven't picked up these last named books recently.)

there is a photo showing a full-stage, full-cast? grouping from this work, which is variously reproduced in other books concerning nijinsky and/or fokine, certainly it's in the english 1979 edition i have of krassovskaya's NIJINSKY on p. 33; it's not in the '74 leningrad, russian (first?) edition of this biography, which i also have.

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I'm working on a reconstruction of four sections of this apparently six-part pas for an upcoming presentation at the Guggenheim. I'm using the documents at Harvard, which included a choreographic notation, a two-violin repetiteur, and a manuscript piano score. The repetiteur appears to pre-date the piano score (which makes sense). From the nature of the differences between the two, I'd venture a guess that the rep represents the pre-1891 music and the piano score represents the changes Drigo presumably made for the 1891 revival of the ballet. In any event, my biggest question is about the corps nymphs that are mentioned above. The notation makes no mention of nymphs, providing choreography only for Diana, Endymion, and the Satyr. An early 20th-century Maryinsky program of "Divertissements" includes a "Les Amours de Diane" (the notation and scores refers to the dance as "Pas de Diane") and lists only these three roles. It was the norm for all dancers excepts young students to be listed in Maryinsky programs. My hunch is that the pas was indeed for only these three dancers and did not include nymphs. Any thoughts, ideas, documents, facts?

I am also reviving "Le Berceau du Papillon" (The cradle of the butterfly) from the same ballet. This is a multi-section dance for a lead woman and four corps women. The old Wikipedia article (now sadly mutilated) on Le Roi Candaule refers to this dance as "La Naissance du Papillon" (The birth of the butterfly). I have no information, beyond the title(s), about the premise of this dance. I would appreciate any information any of you may have--ideas, pointings in any direction, etc. Thank you!

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Beaumont’s COMPLETE BOOK OF BALLETS includes mention of nymphs in Act II, sc. 1, set in “an arena with a triumphal arch. In the background is a statue of Venus Victrix.”

A triumphal procession precedes some festivities, which Beaumont notes thus: “First, there is a dance by nymphs, bayaderes, graces, negroes and half-castes.” After noting that Nisia consents to take part and take the part of Venus, “A new dance begins in which Nisia, cupids, nymphs, and sylphs takes[sic] part.”

The dance named by Beaumont as “the Dance of Diana” is evidently separate from the Pas de Venus, in which Henriette d’Or excelled originally. The “Dance of Diana, in which Endymion and a satyr take part” opens the proceedings of Act IV, sc. 2, set in “A hall in the palace of King Candaules.”

O’course Beaumont is describing the first 1868 production.

It’s possible, one supposes that by the time of Vaganova’s ‘re-staging” of the pas de deux a trios, as a pas de deux, the nymphs from the Pas de Venus were added to the Pas de Diana.

Not sure this is of much help…

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In the same way that small parts of large works (like Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake) have morphed over time, with changes in resources, it's interesting to chart the shifts in works as they have been restaged. Shakespearean scholars compare and contrast the different folios -- this is a similar activity.

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Could Diana and Acteon pas may be a mix up or remix derived from Entretiens de Diane et d'Apollon of Madame de Valentinois (Diane de Poitiers) from 1654? There are 29 or so scenes probably from Ovid involving nymphs and satyrs, several with Daphne and Apollo, Apollo and Hyacinth, Ganymede, Bacchus, and Marsyas – whose "beautiful hands" are released from his handcuffs by Diana's nymphs and for whom he does a playful dance. Acteon is not so lucky –

XXVIII entrée. Actéon avec ses chiens va sans dessein à la chasse, son malheur le conduit du costé où Diane se baignoit, il ose la regarder trop fixement en cet estat la de nudité, ce pourquoy elle le transforme en cerf pour punition de sa témérité, ses chiens ne le conoissant plus, le déchirent à belles dents.

M. de Chanferré, ayde Major : Actéon.

Sieur de Saint-Maurice, Ferry, Rostagny et de Casanove : Chiens

Acteon goes hunting with his dogs without much of a plan in mind. His bad luck leads him to a small woodland shore where Diane is taking her bath. He dares to watch her in a state of nudity a little too intently, and as a punishment for his temerity, she transforms him into a stag. His dogs no longer recognize him and tear him to pieces with their beautiful teeth.

[via Google & Bing]

But there's no Endymion in Entretiens – and usually he's associated with Selene the moon goddess rather than Artemis/Diana. The story of King Candaules in Herodotus also involved a forbidden gaze.

The Duchesse de Valentinois played Diana (12 February 1654, Monaco) and seems not to have been shy about being painted nude.

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