Judgement of Paris
Judgement of Paris was a takeoff on the antique myth of the same name. Tudor chose to limit almost all references to godlike Olympian characters by shifting his setting to a cheap hotel of the night.
The scene opens on a poorly lit dive; an air of deadly boredom hangs over the appalling place. Lounging at a table are two bedraggled female entertainers, one of them reading a newspaper, at the second table is another broken dancer and a wait who exudes an air of purpose and solidity. Suddenly there is a flurry of activity s a customer enters. Upon seeing their potential prey, the lady dancers in their old high heels and fishnet stockings discover a certain amount of inspiration and like wound-up toys begin to vamp back and forth, executing old chorus line dance steps. The customer gazes at these three wrecks preparing to show their stuff and asks for a bottle of wine. It seems like the customer, a latter-day Paris, will be the judge of a surreal beauty contest, although unlike Paris, he is a bit tipsy and has no interest in any of these scary women.
The first candidate, Juno swishes her black lace fan; she wiggles and lunges, waddles and swings her hips. She manages an aura of sultriness but strikes out with the client. When old Venus pops up in her ancient blonde wig, she manipulates three hoops and tries to lure the customer to jump through one of them. Finally she indiscreetly places her foot on the table where he is seated and succeeds in capturing his interest. She proceeds to spin one hoop in each hand near her head and steps into them, triumphantly pulling them over her body. The customer takes another drink and she sits down. The last "goddess", Minerva, struts on with her feather boa, hoping he will reach for it. Instead, his head is about to hit the table. She vulgarly spreads her legs and goes into a split but can only get a quarter of the way down and can't get back up. He falls back with his head on his chest. Defeated, Minerva and her boa slouch back to the other women. With a momentary flash of life, the client points to Venus, as if to say "Come to me, you've won." They clink glasses and he collapses for good, nothing but a "soggy carcass". The waiter and all three buzzards descend on him for his wallet, gold chain, watch, and so forth. We know that the customer is stripped clean and will never see those cafe dancers again.
Ballet Synopsis excerpted with permission from the Ballets of Antony Tudor by Judith Chazin-Bennahum.
Choreography: Antony Tudor.
Music / Composer: Selections from Die Dreigroschenoper (Three Penny Opera), Kurt Weill.
First Performance: England. Westminster Theatre. June 15th, 1938.
Libretto and Costumes: Hugh Laing.
First Performance Cast: Agnes de Mille, Gerd Larson (or perhaps Therese Langfield), Charlotte Bidmead, Antony Tudor, Hugh Laing.
First U.S. Performance: New York. City Center Theatre. January 23rd, 1940. Ballet Theatre.
First U.S. Performance Cast: Maria Karnilova, Agnes de Mille, Lucia Chase, Antony Tudor, Hugh Laing.
Costumes / Scenery: Lucinda Ballard, Hugh Laing.
Notated: 1976 by Dora Frankel (Benesh Notation), Airi Hynninen, 1982-89 (Labanotation).
Number of Dancers: 3 Women, 2 Men.
Average Length: 13 minutes.
Costumes: NY Theatre Ballet, Ballet Rambert.