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The Diana and Acteon Pas de deux (Traditional vs. Notation)


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Here is a comparative viewing of the so-called Diana and Acteon Pas de deux – the traditional version performed by Anastasia Stashkevich and Vyacheslav Lopatin of the Bolshoi Ballet and the notated version performed by Lesley Rausch, Seth Orza and Kyle Davis of the Pacific Northwest Ballet reconstructed by Doug Fullington for Works and Process.

This pas has a very complicated history and is even full of mythological inaccuracies, so allow me to set the record straight. As you can see from the video, the Bolshoi Ballet stages the pas de deux as a divertissement in the second act of their production of La Esmeralda because it is commonly believed that Petipa choreographed this pas de deux as part of his 1886 revival of the Jules Perrot and Cesare Pugni ballet La Esmeralda. That, however, is not the case – the so-called Diana and Acteon Pas de deux actually comes from the fourth act of Petipa and Pugni’s exotic 1868 ballet Le Roi Candaule and was originally titled Les Aventures Amoureuse de Diane (The Amorous Adventures of Diana) or simply the Pas de Diane. The traditional version of the Pas de Diane that is danced today is by Agrippina Vaganova and it was Vaganova who transferred the pas into La Esmeralda.

The Pas de Diane is one of the most famous divertissements from Le Roi Candaule. It is believed that Petipa originally choreographed this pas as a Pas de trois for Diana the Roman Goddess of the Hunt, Endymion the shepherd and a satyr. I have also heard that he used a small corps de ballet of eight of Diana’s nymphs, but please correct me if I am mistaken. The pas is apparently based on a painting by the Russian painter, Karl Bryullov, who is most famous for his painting The Last Day of Pompeii. The original scheme for the pas is that it reflects the myth of the passion between Diana and Endymion, with the two of them dancing with a satyr, who undoubtedly represents the lustful aspects of the passion.

The painting that apparently inspired Petipa for the Pas de Diane can be seen here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Diana,_Endymion_and_Satyr_by_Karl_Briullov.jpg

In 1938, Vaganova staged her own revival of La Esmeralda at the Kirov Theatre for the ballerina, Tatyana Vecheslova. For this revival, Vaganova inserted the Pas de Diane into the second act as a showpiece for the young Galina Ulanova and Vakhtang Chabukiani. When Vaganova made changes to Petipa's ballets, it was often done to showcase her students. She rechristened the Pas de Diane as the Diana and Acteon Pas de deux with Diana dancing with the hunter Acteon instead of Endymion. She removed the role of the Satyr and used a corps de ballet of twelve of Diana’s nymphs to frame the pas. Vaganova also made two changes to the music:

  • The variation for the nymphs is actually Diana’s original variation; Vaganova re-choreographed it and gave it to the nymphs.
  • The traditional variation for Diana is a supplemental variation for the Act 2 Grand Pas Classique (aka the Grand Pas des Fleurs) of La Esmeralda that was composed by Riccardo Drigo for Petipa’s 1886 revival of the ballet. Vaganova added this variation to the Pas de Diane for Galina Ulanova and it became the new variation for Diana.

So that is the story of how the so-called Diana and Acteon Pas de deux was created and how it ended up in La Esmeralda. In regards to Doug’s lecture in the video, unfortunately, he was only able to reconstruct the entrée, adage, the Satyr’s variation and Diana’s variation from the notation. The variation for Endymion is not notated and the coda is only very vaguely notated. Despite this, however, there is enough to show how much this pas has changed from what Petipa staged in the late 19th century, early 20th century.

However, the problems with this pas do not stop there. As someone who knows and loves Greek and Roman mythology, I can tell you all that there are quite a few mythological inaccuracies present in both versions and I will explain what they are.

It starts with Petipa’s original scheme and it seems that maybe he was unaware that his scheme for the Pas de Diane contains a mythological inaccuracy. The main reason for this inaccuracy seems to be due to the fact that the scheme of Bryullov’s painting is incorrect.

The inaccuracy is that both the painting and the pas portray Endymion as the lover of Diana, but in actual fact, Endymion was NOT the lover of Diana; in fact, he never had any association with her at all. Endymion was actually the lover of Luna the Roman Goddess of the Moon. The reason for this inaccuracy is because over time in later literature, Luna became associated with Diana and the two became fused together, resulting in Luna being identified with Diana. Because of this, it has been mistakenly assumed for many, many years that Diana was the Roman Goddess of the Moon and that she and Luna were one of the same, but in actual fact, it was Luna who was the Roman Goddess of the Moon and the personification of the moon itself; her Greek counterpart was Selene. It was also Luna who wore the crescent moon diadem, not Diana. Luna and Diana were not connected in any way at all as they were two separate and distinct goddesses, something that the Romans and Greeks made perfectly clear. Diana was the Goddess of the Hunt, although she was a lunar goddess, but only on a secondary basis and the inaccuracy of portraying Endymion as Diana’s lover is also present in Sylvia, which is probably the most inaccurate mythological ballet there is.

The same confusion and inaccuracy is held over the identity of the God of the Sun. For many, many years, it has been mistakenly assumed that Apollo was the Roman/Greek God of the Sun, but in actual fact, the Roman God of the Sun was Sol; his Greek counterpart was Helios. Just like with his sister Luna and despite the clarity given by the Romans and Greeks, Sol became associated and identified with Apollo in later literature, resulting in the assumption that they were one of the same, but just like Luna and Diana, they were two separate and distinct gods. Sol was the God of the Sun, who rode the sun chariot across the sky every day and the personification of the sun itself. Apollo was actually the God of Art, Music, Poetry, Light, Plague, Medicine, Prophecy and others. This inaccuracy is also present in The Awakening of Flora, as the Goddess of the Moon should actually be credited as Luna, not Diana and the God of the Sun should be credited as Sol, not Apollo.

The myth of Luna and Endymion is one of mythology’s most famous love stories. Endymion was a shepherd and a very handsome young man and one night, when Luna appeared in the sky, she saw Endymion asleep under a tree and fell madly in love with him. He reciprocated her love and she visited him every night on Mount Latmos, but there was a problem – Endymion was mortal, which meant that eventually, he would grow old and die. One of his greatest wishes was to have eternal youth and because Luna loved him so much, she went to Jupiter and asked him to grant her beloved’s wish. Jupiter agreed and granted the wish by putting Endymion into an eternal sleep, thus Endymion became immortal, never grew old and never died. Luna never lost him and she visited him every night in his dreams. From the love between Luna and Endymion, fifty daughters were born, all of whom are equated with the fifty months of the Olympiad.

This is a painting of Luna visiting the sleeping Endymion:

Selene_and_Endymion.jpg

Diana was a virgin goddess and had many suitors and admirers, many of which she ignored, but one of them did win her heart and that was the hunter Orion. Now Orion was not a dark-skinned mortal like he is portrayed in Sylvia; he was actually a Titan. He was the son of Neptune the God of the Sea and the gorgon Euryale and was known for his handsome looks and prodigious strength. He eventually became Diana’s hunting companion and the two fell in love, but the relationship was never consummated. One day, when hunting with Diana, Orion boasted about how he would kill every beast on the earth, much to the dismay of Gaia, the Earth goddess (aka Mother Earth). To punish Orion, Gaia sent a giant scorpion to kill him and the beast succeeded when it stung the Titan to death. Diana was left heartbroken by Orion’s death and Jupiter sent him to the stars, where he became a constellation.

A painting of Diana mourning the dead Orion before he is sent to the stars can be seen here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/Diane_aupr%C3%A8s_du_cadavre_d'Orion.jpg

Now Vaganova’s changing of the scheme, especially the changing of the male character to Acteon is both very confusing and bizarre. Like Endymion, Acteon was not a lover of Diana, but he did have one association with her and the myth of their encounter is one of the most famous of Greek and Roman myths. Acteon was a very proficient hunter, who had been trained in the art of Chiron the wise centaur. One day, while out hunting, he entered the part of the forest sacred to Diana and stumbled upon her bathing naked with her nymphs. Discovering this, Diana was so furious with his insolence that she punished Acteon – she transformed him into a stag and he was hunted down and killed by his own hunting dogs, who didn’t recognise him as their master.

One of the many paintings of Acteon coming across Diana and her nymphs, after which, she turns him into a stag can be seen here: https://www.utexas.edu/courses/larrymyth/images/2D-Diana-Actaeon-Cesari.jpg

So yes, it would’ve been much better if Petipa had choreographed the Pas de Diane for Diana, Orion and the Satyr. As for Vaganova’s inaccuracies, I don’t think I need to go into any more detail for that; clearly, she did not do her research properly. As for Sylvia, it would be better if Acteon was the villain and Eros showed Diana a vision of her and Orion together, not just because it’s accurate to mythology, but also because it’s more logical as Orion’s death would explain why Diana is no longer in a relationship with him. And another thing – Sylvia is set in Ancient Greece, so the Goddess of the Hunt should be credited as Artemis, not Diana.

I could go on and on about all these inaccuracies, but I won’t; I think I’ve delivered the message. I will say, however, if I was given the opportunity any time soon to stage these ballets, I would jump at the chance to correct all these inaccuracies! Lol!!

Enjoy! smile.png

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<quote> And another thing Sylvia is set in Ancient Greece, so the Goddess of the Hunt should be credited as Artemis, not Diana.</quote>

When I saw Balanchine's Apollo as a kid way back when, with the birth scene, I had to wonder what happened to Artemis, his twin. Where do you think the six missing muses are? ;-)

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When I saw Balanchine's Apollo as a kid way back when, with the birth scene, I had to wonder what happened to Artemis, his twin. Where do you think the six missing muses are? ;-)

Oh yes, good question; ballet is full of mythological inaccuracies in various places.

I usually hate it when people in any field make these mistakes, but sometimes, I can understand why changes are made. For example, I can certainly understand why Disney made so many big changes to the myth of Hercules...

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The problem is that Selene/Luna was a minor goddess and Artemis/Diana was one of the most important of the gods, and has a much more interesting persona on which to set a ballet (Selene just sits in a chariot and pedals across the sky all night).

Also Roman statues always show a crescent of a moon in Diana's hair, so by then it would appear that "moon goddess" was a part of her lengthly CV – along with mistress of hunting and wild places, boderlands, "the darker sides of nature; the protector of women and childbirth." (And in Sparta a kind of blood sacrifice involving young men stealing cheese from altars with subsequent floggings.)

Henri Matisse may have solved Endymion/Actaeon problem in the ballet he proposed as a followup to Massine's Rouge et Noir.

From Pierre Schneider's massive tome, Matisse on July 19, 1939 -

I've imagined a classical scenario: Diana the huntress–Diana bathing–Actaeon–Endymion's sleep–the killing of NIobe's children–Atalanta, her race to eliminate her suitors, and finally her defeat and her wedding in the presence of all the gods on Olympus.

Matisse pinning cut-outs to Markova in Rouge et Noir on this Tina Sutton page:

http://themakingofmarkova.com/2014/05/02/matisse-makes-cut-outs-dance/

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The problem is that Selene/Luna was a minor goddess and Artemis/Diana was one of the most important of the gods, and has a much more interesting persona on which to set a ballet (Selene just sits in a chariot and pedals across the sky all night).

Also Roman statues always show a crescent of a moon in Diana's hair, so by then it would appear that "moon goddess" was a part of her lengthly CV – along with mistress of hunting and wild places, boderlands, "the darker sides of nature; the protector of women and childbirth." (And in Sparta a kind of blood sacrifice involving young men stealing cheese from altars with subsequent floggings.)

Even so, it's still incorrect and like I said, Petipa and Vaganova could've still made a more accurate romantic pas de deux for Diana and Orion; it would've been better if Orion had been the male role in the Pas de Diane.

And actually, someone could also make a romantic pas de deux for Selene/Luna and Endymion; a goddess in love with a man in an eternal sleep is quite an interesting concept, I think. But yes, out of the three siblings - Eos/Aurora, Helios/Sol and Selene/Luna - Eos/Aurora and Helios/Sol had more interesting stories about them. Helios/Sol was involved in a love triangle in which he lost his beloved and his son was struck down by Zeus/Jupiter after taking his father's chariot for a ride that went out of control and nearly destroyed the whole universe.

The Greeks and Romans were very distinctive about the identities of their gods and goddesses, but yes, Artemis/Diana was a lunar goddess on a secondary basis, same with Hera/Juno, but it was Selene/Luna who was the official moon goddess and the one who wore the crescent moon diadem and Endymion was her lover.

Not to mention that the clue to Luna's identity is in her name - "Luna" is the Latin word for "moon" and Latin was the language that the Romans spoke. Same thing applies to her brother and sister - "Sol" and "Aurora" are the Latin words for "sun" and "dawn".

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Amy I came across your comment when I was looking for the premiere date for Diana and Acteon.  I found what you wrote to be very interesting first because after I saw Diana and Acteon and then looked up the myth I felt they didn't fit, but thought that there are other ballets that didn't fit well with the story that inspired them, for example La Corsaire.  However, your explanation that it is really the story of Luna/Selene and Endymion makes much more sense.  Also the story of Luna/Selene and Endymion is one of my favorite myths.  I particularly like it because it switches the gender roles with the female character being the more active and assertive and the one doing the viewing and the male character being the passive one that is being looked at.

 

There is a painting by the artist Angelica Kauffmann born in 1741 illustrating this myth.  In the background of the painting is, what was to me a mysterious figure, which I  now understand, due to your comment as being a satyr.  See here

m46.jpg

As with the story of the myth this painting switches gender roles with the female painter depicting a nude male, while the female figure, who is kissing Endymion, is clothed.  My favorite painting of this myth is The Sleep of Endymion by Girodet.  See here https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Endymion-asleep/66FD10B9F348F729.  As in both of these cases Endymion is many times depicted nude, which might explain why in the ballet the male dancer wears little and in some cases very little.  See here

 

An even better ballet for the Selene and Endymion story would something like Le Spectre de la rose, but would start with Endymion asleep on a small hill.  A light (the moonlight) would shine on Endymion and then as the stage brightens Selene would dance in.  Eventually she dances with Endymion who is "sleep dancing."  I would add other dancers, Cupid or Eros and some nymphs, but no satyr.

 

Tom, 

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