The short 2012 ballet Jealousy has also been described as ‘dance sculpture’. It was created as a collaboration between the visual artist Laurence Kavanagh, who typically works on art installations without human figures, and four different choreographers, as a project for the London performance venue cum art gallery, the Print Room. The choreographer responsible for the scene that most interests us was the award-winning James Cousins.
The ballet was inspired by the 1957 French novel of the same title by Alain Robbe-Grillet, which deals with a man obsessively watching as his wife couples with her lover. But only the observed couple appear in this section of the ballet; the audience itself takes the place of the observer. The five-minute duet – it can’t really be called a pas de deux – is about variations of intimacy between the lovers… and part of their love-making involves a spanking.
The basic choreographic idea in the duet is that the woman never touches the floor, which is always a good starting point for a spanking scene. For some, the downside is a common issue when dealing with modern dance: it’s presented symbolically rather than literally. Don’t expect the vigorous spanking hand and waving legs you get with an ideal staging of La Fille Mal Gardée; don’t even expect hand to bottom contact! You’ll see the girl OTK, but she gets rolled around as if she’s on a rotisserie as the implied love-making goes from conventional foreplay to playful spanking and back.
Jealousy‘s world premiere was at the Print Room on February 6, 2012, with Amy Drew and Jack Jones:
The Cousins duet was considered the standout section of the show, and later in 2012 he reused the idea – but not the spanking – in a longer composition, the beautiful and moving There We Have Been. The following year, his section of Jealousy was revived by Scottish Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival as part of a 4-day program of short pieces entitled Dance Odysseys. Here’s a video of the shoot for the promo photos:
The company cast four dancers to play the couple, in varying permutations: Lewis Landini and Victor Zarallo as the man, Sophie Martin and Brenda Lee Grech as the woman. No photos of the performance itself have yet been found, but here’s Sophie rehearsing the spanking, with a different partner each time:
And it may amuse you to know that Scottish Ballet’s autumn season following the Edinburgh Festival included a production of Kenneth Macmillan’s 1974 choreography based on Scott Joplin’s Elite Syncopations. In one sequence, a diminutive nerdy individual gets to dance with a very sexy lady who is much too tall for him. And when Scottish Ballet did it, they included this lift:
I don’t think he actually got to do anything, but what a lovely image!