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Afternoon of a Faun

Jerome Robbins’s poignant setting of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune is a modern ballet classic.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Afternoon of a Faun. It was last on stage 26 October—12 November 2015.

The Story

A male dancer is sleeping in a ballet studio. Languidly, he rises and begins to stretch. A girl enters and begins to warm up at the barre. They fall into a trance-like pas de deux – which ends with the boy kissing the girl on the cheek.

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Background

Jerome Robbins created his Afternoon of a Faun in 1953, early in his career. He was inspired not only by Debussy’s music, and the choreography of Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet, but by the dancers in the rehearsal studios around him: a young man stretching in the sun; two young dancers working on a pas de deux, seemingly unaware of its sexual resonances. The resulting ballet has a truth and poignancy characteristic of Robbins’s greatest works, and has become one of his most enduring ballets.

Jean Rosenthal’s scenery and lighting design creates a sun-drenched studio. Walls of translucent silk suggest a dreamlike world. The ‘fourth wall’ becomes a huge mirror – throughout the ballet the protagonists gaze into the audience, obsessed with the image of themselves. An essay on narcissism, an idle dream or a parable of sexual awakening? Robbins’s subtle and ambiguous setting lets us decide for ourselves.

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