Sixth International 'Music on Stage' Conference

  • Russell Millard (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


'Feminine Arms, Masculine Legs and Little Monkeys: Performing Masculinity in Daphnis et Chloé'

Among the many novelties that Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes brought to contemporary dance was the increased prominence of the male danseur. This was especially true of the company’s star, Vaslav Nijinsky, a figure who quickly acquired almost mythic status. One manoeuvre in particular came to be associated with Nijinsky above all others, his so-called ‘leap to fame’ in the ballet Le Pavillon d’Armide (1909). This celebrated leap was to reappear in a number of his subsequent ballets, such as Le Spectre de la rose (1911) and Daphnis et Chloé (1912). The sheer strength required of the gesture has been much commented on, yet, for some, there was a disconnect between the lower and upper halves of Nijinsky’s body: a lower body that demonstrated ‘masculine’ strength and control, and an upper body that emphasised ‘feminine’ ornament and delicacy.
Ravel’s friend Calvocoressi suggested that one of Ravel’s earliest ideas for his ballet Daphnis et Chloé was directly inspired by Nijinsky’s ‘wonderful leap sideways’, and the discourses that surrounded Nijinsky provide possible interpretants for examining the significance of the character of Daphnis in Ravel’s ballet. The recent historiography of the period of the ballet’s creation emphasises the ‘crisis of masculinity’ experienced by contemporary France, following the country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This paper examines the musical portrayal of Daphnis and the manner in which the character may be understood to be performing a brand of masculinity problematic for French constructions of manhood at the fin de siècle.

'Feminine Arms, Masculine Legs and Little Monkeys: Performing Masculinity in Daphnis et Chloé'
Period22 Oct 201623 Oct 2016
Event typeOther


  • Masculinity
  • Ballet
  • Ballets Russes
  • Ravel
  • Third Republic France
  • Gender
  • Nijinsky
  • Semiotics
  • Daphnis & Chloe
  • Narratology
  • Narrative