Subtle, sensual, and narcissistic, Afternoon of a Faun depicts a chance encounter between two young dancers in a studio.
Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was composed between 1892 and 1894. It was inspired by a poem by Mallarmé that was begun in 1865, supposedly for the stage; the final version appeared in 1876. The poem describes the reveries of a faun around a real or imagined encounter with nymphs. In 1912 Nijinsky presented his famous ballet, drawing his ideas from both the music and the poem, among other sources, including Greek sculpture and painting. This pas de deux, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, is a variation on these themes. It was first performed in 1953 by New York City Ballet, and is dedicated to Tanaquil Le Clercq, for whom the ballet was choreographed.