Ballet dancing drag queens: Edge Hill University produce "The Buttcracker"

Edge Hill University academics are challenging the image of ballet by re-creating and queering photos of ageing and fat dancers in The Buttcracker.

Tuesday, 13th November 2018, 9:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th November 2018, 12:09 pm
Moira Shearer, who played Vicky Page in Powell and Pressburgers The Red Shoes, is another of our heroes, and was a British ballerina who made the move from ballet to film stardom. Here, Mark portrays Moira, who plays Vicky, who is which is portrayed in the wonderful ballet-within-the film. This photograph is thus  a performance within a performance within a performance within a  performance... No wonder Mark and Vicky feel like theyre going mad.
Moira Shearer, who played Vicky Page in Powell and Pressburgers The Red Shoes, is another of our heroes, and was a British ballerina who made the move from ballet to film stardom. Here, Mark portrays Moira, who plays Vicky, who is which is portrayed in the wonderful ballet-within-the film. This photograph is thus a performance within a performance within a performance within a performance... No wonder Mark and Vicky feel like theyre going mad.

Rupturing the traditional image of thin, heterosexual, athletic, young dancers, Mark Edward and Helen Newall have constructed photos of famous ballets and songs renaming them Gaysell (Gisele), La Sifilis (La Silfide) and Sugar Bum Fairy (Sugar Plum Fairy).

Rudolf Nureyev was a Soviet ballet star who defected to the West, and subsequently partnered Margot Fonteyn. Often lauded as the greatest male ballet dancer of his time, he demonstrated that while ballet is a beautiful art form, it also requires agility, immense strength and great physical prowess, things Mark has in spades. We decided on our version of the name because often there are leaps that Nureyev could do that Mark can only dream of, but with the help of a mini trampoline for these shots, he gets near enough
Posing is hard work! Mark had to leap repeatedly, or hold uncomfortable poses for long stretches of time to achieve the right look for the camera. This shot was taken during one of our many tea breaks.

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Mark as Pavlova, in another classic pose from The Dying Swan.
Louise la Cavalier was an extraordinary fierce dancer who famously executed difficult dance steps more usually performed by male dancers, including thenotoriously difficult barrel turn. This shot pays homage to her work in Human Sex as part of Canadian dance company, La La La Human Steps.
This work is about shifting perceptions, looking at how we see traditional dancers and read the body through a queer and queered lens. No-one expects to see a fat, ageing, bearded man on pointe in a tutu. But its about disrupting the performance and aesthetics.
Here, Nijinskys beautiful rose petal costume, designed by Lon Bakst, is recreated in our version by pinning raw cabbage leaves to Marks vest! Under the lights, the studio began to smell like a soup kitchen!
Part of the Dying Swans phase of the work, here we pastiche Anna Pavlovas famous portrayal of The Dying Swan which Michel Fokine created for Pavlova in 1904. She performed the 4 minute dance thousands of times, and it became her signature piece. On her death-bed, she is alleged to have said: DzPrepare my swan costume.dz Thats dedication and we love her for it.
This is the first image of the new series, The Buttcracker, and for the first time Helen appears in the image as a male ballet dancer, while Mark continues in his portrayal of ballerinas, in the guise of the Sugarbum Fairy. Because Mark is taller than Helen, when on pointe hes considerably taller! We like the comedy of this!
A huge part of the photo shoots we do is the preparation. This is Mark under the talented hands of Chris de Bray, being transformed into a prima ballerina. Helen was elsewhere gluegunning tulle into a tutu-shape. If you look carefully in osoem of the photos you can see the pegs used to hold things in place!
The Buttcracker follows on from their previous collaborative exhibition Dying Swans and Dragged up Dames which parodied iconic performance photographs of legendary dancers.