Saturday, February 13, 2010

Billy Elliot is queer

My friend H treated me to "Billy Elliot: The Musical" today. We had a grand time. It deserves all its accolades - it's well done in every way. Based on a film I so loved I haven't dared watch it again, it will surely inspire many young people to take up the dance. (My only complaint is that it - perhaps inevitably - celebrates Broadway rather than the ballet as terminus of Billy's strivings.) Other kids will be inspired too. It's very queer, as the red herring line "Billy Elliot is queer" - the hero's misreading of "Billy Elliot, Esquire" on the letter of acceptance from the Royal Ballet School, read in a half-knowing way and followed by a long pause for it to sink in - marks. Is Billy gay? The question is skirted (!) as deftly as in the film. But the show sure is. The only kiss - a peck on the cheek - is between boys, the only pas de deux - from "Swan Lake" - is between a man and a boy (well, grown-up Billy and boy Billy in a dream), and everyone ends up in a tutu at curtain call. Even the coal miners sing:

All out together,
All out as one,
All out for victory,
Till we’ve won.

What a marvelous thing it would be to have seen as a boy...

Incidentally there's an Aussie connection, too. Our Billy was a very talented young Australian (from Penrith, west of Sydney) named Dayton Tavares, who came to ballet from hip hop and tae kwon do. There's even a parallel with Billy's story: Dayton learned ballet on the sly at the instigation of a teacher, telling his father nothing of it for six months... And it's true: he's on Broadway, not the ballet.

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