Twentieth Century Ballet

Modern Movement of the Ballets Russes

Vaslav Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun ballet, part of the Ballets Russes, is an example of the new modernity that was embraced with the turn of the twentieth century and is representative of the Ballets Russes as a whole. The dancing in Afternoon of a Faun is very modern, a large contrast from the traditional, classical ballet of the previous decades.
The faun’s movements are jerky, and he flexes his hands and feet to demonstrate animalistic tendencies. It is hard to identify exactly what classical ballet moves are being used—if there are any at all. The faun dances overtly sensual and although he is a male, he does not play his role as being particularly masculine, in fact, it seems rather feminine. The faun’s pas de deux with the nymph differs greatly from pas de deuxs and male solos of classical ballets of the past, such as Swan Lake or Coppélia. Mikhail Baryshnikov's very masculine solo from Coppélia is show below, a large contrast to the feminine Afternoon of a Faun.