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Flash Flashback, 4-4: The British are Coming Out! The British are Coming Out!
Bintley's Brits Give a Schooling
By Mark Dendy
Copyright 2000, 2008 Mark Dendy
(Editor's Note: To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Dance Insider is revisiting its Archive. This Flash Review was first published on September 29, 2000. Mark Dendy, phone home!)
Does the mother country
have something to teach us about coming out in the opera house?
We Americans tend to think of ourselves as the frontiersmen when
it comes to art and homo art and new ideas and graphic sexual content
onstage. It's the Brits who are uptight, stuffy, conservative. Watching
David Bintley's Birmingham Royal Ballet production of "Edward II"
at City Center the other night, I was reminded that this country
was founded by people who were so uptight the British kicked them
"Edward II" is the really
tragic tale of a king who lives openly in front of his court as
a homosexual. His lover is executed by Edward's distraught wife
and her cohort. Edward is harassed, tortured, raped, pissed on (real
water on stage) and finally brutally killed by nothing less (and
I don't mean this figuratively) than having a red hot poker shoved
up his..... well, you get the point. THE most sexually graphic ballet
I have ever seen. Sometimes to a tasteless fault, but it is at its
best unapologetic, bold, daring, rough edged and brutally graphic.
The dancing of the second
cast (I didn't see the first) was good and solid. Robert Parker
was excellent as Edward. As Queen Isabella, Ambra Vallo showed us
not just the villainness, the betrayed and jealous, but the hurt
and devastation that such a false forced relationship can cause.
The pas de deux between Edward and Gaveston is luscious, physical
and romantic without being schmaltzy. The satisfaction that comes
from watching ballet dancers equally support each other and share
partnering responsibilities is immense. (And possible in ballet
only with same sex couples as opposite sex couples are too disparate
strength-wise to achieve this.) This romantic bliss cannot last
forever. Enter jealous wife. The proceeding pas de trois and the
pas de deux with Isabella and Edward are choreographically some
of the most beautiful in the production and further the story, and
are danced magically.
Other moments, such as
the witnessing of the offstage beheading of Edward's lover Gaveston
and Edward subsequently running on stage with a bag tied with a
rope supposedly containing Gaveston's severed head are so bad they
are over the top. This of course is part of ballet's charm to the
modern experimentalist. Delsartian pantomime instead of movement
and gesture that reveal real psychological and subtextual meaning.
The story is a great
one -- part of our queer heritage. Kudos to Bintley for having the
guts to take it on and tell it like it really was, hot poker and
all! In places it shines, in others, for this taste it needs to
be polished. I personally didn't care for the leather scene stuff
being used to negatively define the heteros. Leather isn't dark
and murderous, it's about brotherhood and trust. It's primitive
and tribal but not evil. Mr. Bintley might look again at such an
easy stereotype to cloak his villains in. Stereotypes have been
used about gays enough that we should be more sensitive when using
them to define ourselves, especially as it pertains to the leather
and trans-gendered sects of our tribe. There were also hilarious
and wonderfully campy cuttings up with Edward's inner court of jester
queens! What a Fairy Tale this was.
The moral of the story:
If you are gay, don't let the socially dominant culture dictate
to you to conform to the sexual norm. There will be an unhappy woman
and she will have you for supper.