The Innovators: Great Gay Moments in 20th-Century Dance
BY Christopher Harrity
August 20 2011 3:00 AM ET
Sir Frederick Ashton: Freddy and Gertrude Stein Broke Ground
Bon vivant and boulevardier, Ashton was one of the 1920s’ bright young people along with Cecil Beaton and Stephen Tennant. He produced and directed many ballets and operas, but is most famous for founding the Royal Ballet in London. Inspired as a child growing up in Peru by seeing a performance by Anna Pavlova, he set course for a life of dance from that moment on. His broad travesti performances as one of two comic Ugly Stepsisters in Cinderella — the other being Robert Helpmann — were annual events for many years. A crowning event with a constellation of gay stars was his choreography for Four Saints in Three Acts, an opera by American composer Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein. Written in 1927-1928, it contains about 20 saints and is in at least four acts. It was groundbreaking for form, content, and its all-black cast.
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