Afternoon of a Faun

Dancers Paris Wilcox and Aisling Hill-Connor. Photographer Steve Wilson.
Dancers Paris Wilcox and Aisling Hill-Connor in October 2005. Photographer Steve Wilson.

Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Music: Claude Debussy
Staged By: Francisco Moncion
Set Design: Jean Rosenthal
Costume Design: Irene Sharaff

About the ballet
Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, premiered in 1953, is considered by many to be Robbins’ greatest ballet. The work, a pas de deux, is drawn from themes of an earlier work of the same name choreographed by the greatest dancer of his day, Vaslav Nijinsky. The ballet shocked Parisian sensibilities when it premiered in 1912. The Robbins’ version, set to the same score of Claude Debussy, is set in a conventional ballet studio with two dancers in rehearsal clothes. Following its premiere, Doris Hering of Dance Magazine wrote Afternoon of a Faun is a work of great awareness and wry insight and one that shimmers with atmosphere from beginning to end.”

Program notes
Debussy’s music, Prelude a L’Apres-midi d’un Faune, was composed between 1892 and 1894.  It was inspired by a poem of Mallarme’s which was begun in 1865, the final version of which appeared in 1876.  The poem describes the reveries of a faun around a real or imagined encounter with nymphs.  In 1912 Nijinsky presented his famous ballet, drawing his ideas from many sources including Greek sculpture and painting.

Jerome Robbins, who had a lifelong fascination with Nijinsky, took the stylized and sexually charged 1912 Afternoon of a Faun and transposed it into the demure, asexual language of ballet.  This pas de deux, choreographed for New York City Ballet’s Tanaquil Le Clerq and Francisco Moncion, is about a fleeting encounter between a young man and a woman in a dance studio.  It is an inward-looking study of two dancers, both lost at times in narcissistic reverie while looking at their reflected image in the studio mirror.

In describing his piece, Robbins said, “I always thought the girl had just washed her hair and just had on new pointe shoes and a new clean practice dress and came into the studio to preen and practice…”

World Premiere: May 14, 1953, New York City Ballet, City Center of Music and Drama, New York.

Kansas City Ballet Premiere: November 1, 1984, Lyric Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

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