Apollinaire responds: good and bad violence in dance

In the post below, Eva writes,

I am willing, however, to see violence in dance if there’s some significant point to be made, larger context to be drawn, and maybe something about what inner or outer forces give rise to our violence or what arises as a result of our violent natures and violent acts.

An example for me of justified violence is the scene in Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free” (ABT is currently performing it at City Center) where three sailors on furlough play catch with a lady-bypasser’s purse.
It starts in fun–she’s enjoying herself. But eventually she’s not in on the fun, she’s the object of it. Robbins perfectly captures how a game can turn on its players, how the force of a group even as small as three can be stronger than the judgment of any one of its members. The dance needs to toy with danger: when this scene is played as pure comedy, it doesn’t amount to much. But it doesn’t need to act out the violence. The sailors come to their senses right at the point when they’ve almost gone too far.
The rape that concludes Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon,” on the other hand, is so gratuitous, you’re stuck concluding that the choreographer is getting off on poor Manon’s ravaging. (ABT subjected us to this ballet last year–and it’s back again in the spring! Why, oh, why?)
Maybe the question we should ask when squirming in our seats is: what would be lost without the violence? In “Fancy Free,” a good deal. In “Manon,” it would still be a lousy ballet, but not quite so lousy.
[addendum: Eva’s review of the performance she refers to below has been published. Click here.]

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