Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Afternoon of a Faun. It was last on stage 26 October—12 November 2015.
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.
The girl hurries out of the studio. Left alone, the boy goes back to sleep.
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.
News and features
12 November 2015
What did you think of the relay of The Royal Ballet's mixed programme featuring Carlos Acosta's latest ballet?
Watch: Members of the cast and creative teams on Viscera, Afternoon of a Faun, Tchaikovsky Pas de deux and Carmen12 November 2015
Backstage films from the live relay of The Royal Ballet's latest Mixed Programme including rehearsal footage and exclusive interviews.
Viscera / Afternoon of a Faun / Tchaikovsky Pas de deux / Carmen relayed live to cinemas around the world on 12 November 20156 November 2015
Mixed programme includes Carlos Acosta’s new ballet.
20 October 2015
Our quick introduction to The Royal Ballet’s mixed programme of 20th-century American classics and vibrant new works, including the world premiere of Carlos Acosta’s Carmen.
6 October 2015
A number of confirmations have been announced for Afternoon of a Faun, and Ryoichi Hirano will dance in Viscera.
1 June 2015
Controversial at its premiere, this dreamlike story of unfulfilled desire has seduced several great artists over the past century.
Afternoon of a Faun is a ballet made by Jerome Robbins, subsequently ballet master of New York City Ballet, to Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. The premiere took place on 14 May 1953 at City Center of Music and Drama, New York, with scenery and lighting by Jean Rosenthal and costumes by Irene Sharaff. Note: Tanaquil LeClercq's costume was not by Irene Sharaff. It was made for her by her mother, Edith Le Clercq. Robbin's setting differs from the original version by Vaslav Nijinsky by placing the danseur in a ballet studio (a three wall set), lounging on the floor. A ballerina enters and they dance facing the audience as though looking into the mirrored wall of the studio. He kisses his partner on the cheek and she bourrées out of the studio and off-stage. He returns to his initial supine position.