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Dance Looks to Art for Inspiration

Part 2: Degas

Degas’ work is an extraordinary resource. Just as inspiring as his more major paintings and sculptures of dancers are his equally profound smaller bronzes and his working wax models that were never meant for public display. Simply taking the nude study of the Dancer Adjusting her Shoulder Strap and placing it alongside the many other studies of women in various poses one can begin to visualise a dance piece - even an entire ballet.

When I was choreographing Purcell’s The Fairy Queen for English National opera, I had to create a dance solo for the Indian Boy, the cause of all arguments between Oberon and Titania. Degas’ bronze of the little fourteen year-old Dancer evoked the spirit of innocence and the exact quality of youthful confidence that I was looking for - plus a dash of pouting determination. With her slight potbelly and her eyes brimming with an effortless sense of potential, there is a readiness for the bigger world. I made a dance that started from the same balletic ‘fourth position’ and gradually progressed into more contemporary movement, always returning to the same stance.

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