Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Afternoon of a Gay Faun

Reader discretion advised. Contains material of a sexual nature.

In October 2001 I was privileged to see Joffrey Ballet's Domingo Rubio in the title role of the reconstructed Nijinsky-choreography Après-Midi d'un Faun. It was an unforgettable performance: the queerest faun ever.

You know the story. (You can see it here, danced by Rudy Nureyev.) A faun wakes up in mid-afternoon, after, presumably, sleeping off the night before. (You know fauns.) Enter a group of nymphs, come for an afternoon bathe in the river. The faun shows himself. The nymphs are frightened. He singles out one and dances with her, flirtatious. Finally she runs off with her girlfriends, but in her panicked flight she drops part of her outfit. The faun rushes over, picks up the wrap, and cradles it in his arms, kissing it. Then he spreads it out lovingly on the ground and slowly lowers himself onto it. With a single convulsive thrust of the pelvis, he ejaculates all over the fallen shawl. You can practically smell the squirting semen.

I happened to be seated next to a couple of blue-haired grandes dames, probably season ticket holders. The sound of their shocked gasps at this fetishistic masturbatory climax was a time-travel moment, like being back at the piece's premiere in 1913. After 88 years, this art still had the power to shock. I applauded uproariously. The ladies didn't applaud at all. Sweet.


Nijinsky based his choreography on Greek vase paintings, so Faun has a planar visual flatness, a two-dimensional angularity to it that is reputedly incredibly difficult to dance. The Joffrey Afternoon read almost like successive frames of a film run just a little too slowly. Nureyev realizes this with a jerky performance, but Rubio's interpretation, while preserving the dance's essential angularity, did so with a supple, almost pantherine lissomeness.

Rubio's faun radiated an intense eroticism, generated largely by his poised muscular restraint, the quivering stillness of a predator about to pounce. His costume included Nijinsky's signature erect tail, the very shape and size (how had I never realized it before?) of an erect phallus, which throbbed with an independent life of its own. (Penis, of course, originally meant “tail” in Latin.) After that final, penetrating thrust, his entire outstretched body went spasmodically quiescent, all but that outrageous standing tail, still quivering with post-ejaculatory excitement.

Usually Afternoon of a Faun is performed as a grand jeu hétérosexuel, but Rubio—bless his shapely, dimpled butt—somehow was able to convey instead the truth of Nijinsky's deep, essential queerness. I still haven't quite figured out just how he managed to communicate this, but the message came across loud and clear.

It wasn't really the girl he wanted at all.

It was the dress.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Arthur Freeheart
    Arthur Freeheart Friday, 26 June 2015

    Encore, encore!

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