Monday 31 December 2012

On the 7th Gay Day of Christmas ...

… my blogger gave to me …


With 2012 being the 25th anniversary of Matthew Bourne’s “Adventures in Motion Pictures” dance company it seems natural that this Christmas I celebrate by taking inspiration for his most famous innovation into classical ballets – the all-male “Swan Lake”.

Here are 7 gay male dancers who glided swan-like across the world’s stages with grace and elegance, including some who have passed away recently. I’ll start with Matthew Bourne himself.

1) MATTHEW BOURNE (b.1960)
Bourne was artistic director of Adventures in Motion Pictures for fifteen years. At his helm ballet became more accessible to the general public, especially through his innovative use of male swans and other twists to traditional roles. Bourne has also choreographed many musical revivals in the West End.

2) SIR ROBERT HELPMANN (1909-1986)
Robert will always be remembered as the Child Catcher in the film “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, but he is also Australia’s most famous and prolific ballet dancers and choreographers, although he started his career as a burlesque dancer. After his peak years he became a successful actor on stage and screen as well as choreographer.

3) ALEXANDER GRANT (1925-2011)
A great character dancer from the golden years of the Royal Ballet. He worked closely with Sir Frederick Ashton, who created character parts specially for him, and brought new energy to “older roles” for male dancers in the 1960s. Grant also became leader of the National Ballet of Canada.

4) RUDOLF NUREYEV (1938-1993)
Perhaps the most famous male ballet dancer of the last 50 years. While Principal Dance with the Kirov Ballet he defected to the west, becoming a celebrity in the process. His partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn has entered legend. He turned to acting, famously appearing nude in “Valentino” in 1982, and was one of the first big names to announce he had AIDS shortly before he died.

5) RICHARD CRAGUN (1944-2012)
An American ballet dancer who partnered ballerina Maria Haydée for thirty years. They became lovers for a while until Richard came out as gay, though they continued to dance together successfully for many years afterwards. In 2000 he moved to Rio de Janeiro with his Brazilian boyfriend to form a dance project in the Rio slums.

6) WAYNE SLEEP (b.1948)
Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet, and one of the first British male ballet dancers to move from dance to acting to celebrity. With Alexander Grant he danced in Sir Frederick Ashton’s film “The Tales of Beatrix Potter”. He starred in his own dance series on tv, and now seems to spend most of his time on reality and celebrity shows.

7) NIGEL CHARNOCK (1960-2012)
Co-founder of the contemporary dance company DV8. Nigel often courted controversy with his innovative dances and energetic performances, often by appearing naked. He pioneered the use of all-male dancers in sexually inspired plots. He choreographed pieces for many contemporary dance companies and performed solo.

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