Judgment of Paris (1938)


Judgment of Paris

JUDGMENT OF PARIS - Ballet Theatre
L-R Maria Karnilova, Agnes de Mille, Lucia Chase,
Photo by Fred Fehl - Courtesy of Sallie Wilson


Judgment of Paris was a takeoff on the antique myth of the same name. Tudor chose to limit almost all references to godlike Olympian characters by shifting his setting to a cheap hotel of the night.

The scene opens on a poorly lit dive; an air of deadly boredom hangs over the appalling place. Lounging at a table are two bedraggled female entertainers, one of them reading a newspaper; at the second table is another broken dancer and a waiter who exudes an air of purpose and solidity. Suddenly there is a flurry of activity as a customer enters. Upon seeing their potential prey, the lady dancers in their old high heels and fishnet stockings discover a certain amount of inspiration and like wound-up toys begin to vamp back and forth, executing old chorus line dance steps. The customer gazes at these three wrecks preparing to show their stuff and asks the waiter for a bottle of wine. It seems that the customer, a latter-day Paris, will be the judge of a surreal beauty contest, although unlike Paris, he is a bit tipsy and has no interest in any of these scary women.

The first candidate, Juno swishes her black lace fan; she wiggles and lunges, waddles and swings her hips. She manages an aura of sultriness but strikes out with the client. When old Venus pops up in her ancient blonde wig, she manipulates three hoops and tries to lure the customer to jump through one of them. Finally she indiscreetly places her foot on the table where he is seated and succeeds in capturing his interest. She proceeds to spin one hoop in each hand near her head and steps into them, triumphantly pulling them over her body. The customer takes another drink and she sits down. The last “goddess,” Minerva, struts on with her feather boa, which has definitely seen better days. With creaking knees, Minerva tap-dances her way through several bars of music. She holds out one end of the feather boa, hoping he will reach for it. Instead, his head is about to hit the table. She vulgarly spreads her legs and goes into a split but can only get a quarter of the way down and can’t get back up. He falls back with his head on his chest. Defeated, Minerva and her boa slouch back to the other women. With a momentary flash of life, the client points to Venus, as if to say “Come to me, you’ve won.” They clink glasses and he collapses for good, nothing but a “soggy carcass.” The waiter and all three buzzards descend on him for his wallet, gold chain, watch, and so forth. We know that the customer is tripped clean and will never see those café dancers again.

Antony Tudor
Music / Composer
Kurt Weill
selections from
Die Dreigroschenoper
(Three Penny Opera)
First Performance
Westminster Theatre
June 15, 1938
Libretto and Costumes
Hugh Laing
Cast - First Performance
Agnes de Mille, Gerd Larson (or perhaps Therese Langfield), Charlotte Bidmead, Antony Tudor, Hugh Laing
First US Performance
New York
City Center Theatre
January 23, 1940
Ballet Theatre
Cast First US Performance
Maria Karnilova, Agnes de Mille, Lucia Chase, Antony Tudor, Hugh Laing
Costumes / Scenery
Lucinda Ballard; Hugh Laing
1976 by Dora Frankel
(Benesh Notation)
Airi Hynninen, 1982-89
Number of Dancers
3 Women, 2 Men
Average Length
13 Minutes
NY Theatre Ballet
Ballet Rambert
None – table/chairs
Licensing Information
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Ballet Synopsis excerpted with permission from
The Ballets of Antony Tudor by Judith Chazin-Bennahum.



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