glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy






Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

Bookmark and Share
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

While prostitution may be the oldest profession, dance is almost certainly the oldest art. Worshipping and attempting to communicate with the unknown also seem to have been around forever. Over the years, these primal forces--sex, art, and spirituality--have intersected and sometimes happily merged, as when ancient temple dancers fornicated with devotees, guiding them via religious ritual toward divine resurrection of the flesh, while simultaneously raising funds to repair the altar.

During France's glittering Belle Epoque at the end of the nineteenth century, the foyer de la danse at L'Opéra was an exclusive show room of danseuses available for hire. Similarly, troops of boy-dancer prostitutes were active in the Muslim world for centuries and as late as the 1960s. Even today, Japanese geishas may be considered among the most sophisticated of dancer-prostitutes.

The connection between sexuality and dance is apparent as well in contemporary venues such as discos and clubs, where music and recreational drugs animate dancers to lustful frenzy. Less obviously, even conventional theatrical dance strives to provide its more passive audiences a vicarious erotic encounter with exquisite nubile bodies.

In the twentieth century, artistic dance has proven to be a haven for glbtq people, who have made significant contributions in almost every area, including as choreographers, performers, and teachers. A number of gay choreographers have also included, with varying degrees of explicitness, content in their dances.

Dance as Art

Dance is ephemeral. It generally leaves no artifacts for archaeologists. But it is clear that even pre-historic human beings danced from many of the same impulses and for similar ends that motivate human beings today: to release adrenalin, to celebrate or to mourn, to attract sexual partners, to express exuberance or despair, and to participate in religious rituals.

As a bonding agent, dance has been a factor in the creation of great civilizations as different as those of ancient Egypt and Greece and the Aztecs and the Incas. In contrast, Christianity, perhaps fearful of the sexual energy expressed in dance, excised it from its rituals.

Dance is at once a communal expression and a theatrical spectacle. The evolution of dance from communal ritual and individual self-expression to observed spectacle and choreographed movement is complex, but as dance developed into an art form requiring professional dancers who performed for spectators it became highly codified.

The rules that govern Indian dance, for example, were set out in the fifth century C.E. in the Natya Sastra of Bharata and the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikesvara. The Western art of ballet was formally established in 1588, when a textbook of ballet steps was published by dancing master Thoinet Arbeau.

Ballet became Europe's international theatrical artistic dance, but by the late nineteenth century it had been reduced to a vitiated form of divertissement in opera, except in Russia. There, under the bountiful patronage of the Czars, ballet remained a vital cultural force.

In 1909, the nobleman Sergei Diaghilev brought a company of Russian dancers, with choreographers, artists, theatrical designers, and composers, from the Imperial Theaters to Paris. Soon thereafter he formed an international touring company, the Ballets Russes, which dramatically influenced all areas of art in the twentieth century.

The gay presence in classical ballet in the twentieth century has been remarkable. Ballet may even be said to be the first multinational "gay industry," encompassing patrons as well as choreographers, dancers, designers, composers, and audience.

Even a short list of the most important gay contributors to twentieth-century ballet would have to include the following names: Diaghilev and his dancer lovers Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Boris Kochno, Anton Dolin, and Serge Lifar; Frederic Franklin and Leon Danelian of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; Oliver Smith and Antony Tudor of Ballet Theatre; Edward M. M. Warburg and Lincoln Kirstein of the New York City Ballet, along with their coterie of gay artists such as Paul Cadmus and George Platt Lynes.

In addition, there are such figures as Marquis George de Cuevas and Roberto Ossorio, who supported their own ballet companies; Sir Frederick Ashton of the Royal Ballet; Maurice Béjart, choreographer of great homoerotic works such as Nijinsky: Clown of God (1971) and Songs of a Wayfarer (1971), created for Paolo Bortoluzzi and the greatest and gayest superstar of them all, Rudolph Nureyev; Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino; Rudi Van Dantzig; Lar Lubovitch; David Bintley, who created the homoerotic Edward II (1995) for the Stuttgart Ballet; Matthew Bourne, who created a Swan Lake (1995) with all male swans; and sublime actor/dancer Erik Bruhn.

    page: 1  2  3  4  5   next page>  
zoom in
A painting of Vaslav Nijinsky in a production of Scheherezade created by George Barbier in 1910.
Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about The Arts
Popular Topics:


Williams, Tennessee
Williams, Tennessee

Literary Theory: Gay, Lesbian, and Queer

The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance

Romantic Friendship: Female
Romantic Friendship: Female

Feminist Literary Theory

American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969
American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Erotica and Pornography
Erotica and Pornography

Mishima, Yukio
Mishima, Yukio

Sadomasochistic Literature

Beat Generation
Beat Generation




This Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.