Bluebeard’s Secret

01 Blaubart

Blaubarts Geheimnis (Bluebeard’s Secret) is an award-winning ballet by the German choreographer Stephan Thoss (born 1965). It premiered under his artistic directorship at Wiesbaden in 2011, and was then revived at Vienna the following year. Footage that’s available on the internet shows it to be a tour de force of modern choreography. What is less clear than one might wish is whether or not it features any spanking.

02 Blaubart Basel Javier Rodriguez Cobos & Andrea Tortosa Vidal

The ballet is almost a diptych: the first half deals with relations between the sexes in general, and the characters of Bluebeard and Judith emerge out of this, to become the central figures of the second half, which is an original, humane take on the Bluebeard story. Thoss’ Bluebeard is not a wife-murderer but a traumatized man with secrets, tormented by the memories of his past relationships. He and Judith are married, and she moves into his castle with his creepy mother whose possessiveness has ruined his life; but he keeps his skeletons in the cupboard and has to be brought to face them…

Among the various kinds of interactions between men and women in the first half is a moment when a man lifts a woman and then spins her as he puts her down, so that she ends up like this:

03 Blaubarts geheimnis Maria Alati & Mihail Sosnovschi

(Mihail Sosnovschi and Maria Alati in the 2012 Vienna production.)

In the second half, some of the dance moves echo those seen in the first half, including a moment when Bluebeard does this to Judith:

04 Blaubart05 BlaubartBluebeard Vienna

(Kirill Kourlaev and Alice Firenze in the 2012 Vienna production)

But how are we to interpret that, unless we should be lucky enough to see the whole ballet whenever it’s next revived in an accessible venue? (And it would be worth it for the choreography alone.) It certainly looks as if Bluebeard is putting his wife into position for a spanking – but is that just wishful thinking?

The problem – and in a sense it’s a welcome problem to have – is that, as a choreographer, Thoss seems fond of putting his dancers into a configuration that echoes M/F OTK: the man with his torso upright, the woman across him, horizontal and bottom up. Here’s another example from his 2014 ballet Die Liebe Kann Tanzen (Love can Dance):

06 die_liebe_kann_tanzen_theaterbasel

But that ballet also gives some definite food for thought. In a quite separate moment, it features a brief but indisputable spanking:

Liebe Kann Tanzen

You can watch the video here.

And given that he choreographed that, Thoss is surely too smart not to have realized that he was invoking spanking in those other poses too. But only a visit to the ballet will bring a definitive answer!

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