- By Deborah Jowitt
Sex and Death
Arthur Mitchell and Diana Adams in Agon (1957) by George Balanchine. Photo by Martha Swope ©The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Several nineteenth-century story ballets that have survived the passage of time have similar scenarios. In Giselle (1841), a nobleman groomed to marry a woman he doesn’t much care for falls in love with a peasant girl with a weak heart. When death transforms her into a Wili, he becomes in thrall to her. This frail spirit, against her wishes, has been commanded by the Queen of the Wilis to dance him to death. Instead, she saves him and returns to her grave; he is overcome with grief.
In La Bayadère (1877), Solor’s bride-to-be, Gamzatti, sees to it that...