The Planets (1934)


The Planets

1934 - Antony Tudor as Neptune - Angus McBean Photograph
Copyright © Harvard Theatre Collection
Courtesy of Judith Chasin-Bennahum.


In The Planets, Tudor composed the parts (Venus, Mars, Neptune and later, Mercury), not only to reflect the music, but also to create the atmosphere and lyrical movement that reflected different planets’ meanings. The moods of each section of the music were strongly contrasted, and Tudor matched them by adopting different choreographic styles.

In the first section of The Planets, “Venus,” two mortals, a boy and girl, are born. The planet Venus (created for Maude Lloyd), as well as the movement of the stars, make the two white-clad lovers meet and part, then meet again a little closer and part, and so on till the end when they are in each other’s arms.

The “Mars” scene was choreographed on Hugh Laing, who was an extremely dynamic mover. The costume for Mars was red with wide trousers and bands of material across Laing’s bare chest and around his arms. This section, with much stamping and fist thrusting, had dances in the tradition of Kurt Jooss. “Mortal and planet leapt, stamped and groveled in fierce convulsions; everything was extremely contorted and emphatic.’’ The movements were apparently highly modern, aggressive, and angry. The scenario indicated that the Mortal born under that planet is destined always to fight-and in the end destroys himself.

Tudor composed the third scene, “Neptune,” on Kyra Niiinsky, daughter of Vaslav and Romola Nijinsky. In “Neptune,” the Mystic, mood was almost everything, aided by the pensive colors of dark brown and green, Holst’s introduction of a wordless female chorus, and by his use of very slow movement.

The fourth section, “Mercury,” which was added five years later, gave the ballet some vivacity and amplitude. The background lighting of gray and blue suggested moonlight. The music contained very complex cross rhythms combined with “a lot of very quick beats” that made it an exciting conclusion. Guy Massey danced Mercury, and Peggy van Praagh played the Mortal.

Marie Rambert praised the balance and structure of this ballet. She pointed out that in each section there was the planet and the mortal born under that planet and satellites to provide more movement.

Antony Tudor
Music / Composer
Gustav Holst
The Planets
Costumes / Scenery
Hugh Stevenson
First Performance
London - Mercury Theatre
October 28, 1934
Ballet Club (Rambert)
First Cast Performance
Pearl Argyle, William Chappell, Maude Lloyd, Nan Hopkins, Joan Lendrum, Hugh Laing, Diana Gould, Susette Morfield, Peggy van Praagh, Kyra Nijinsky, Antony Tudor
Two excerpts of the planets have been reconstructed and notated (Labanotation) (Venus and Neptune performed at Duke Univ. Dance Program.)
Average Length
Number of Dancers
7 Women, 4 Men
Costumes / Scenery
Duke University (Venus and Neptune Only)
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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