Baryshnikov Dance Foundation Presents;
THE SHOW (Achilles Heels)
According to Greek legend, there was once an enchanting Goddess
name Thetis. So enchanting was Thetis that both Zeus and Poseidon
competed for her hand. That is, until it was understood that if
one of the Gods wed her, the son borne would be mightier than the father.
As a result, the mortal Peleus was chosen as the husband for Thetis.
The Gods ever enthusiastic to play games with the lives of mere
mortals, must have been pleased with the prophesy that the son of this
union, Achilles of Thessaly, would die in battle because he would then
in no way threaten their omnipotence.
Thetis who often complained of her inferior wedlock, attempted to make
Achilles invulnerable by dipping him into the Rive
Styx. But she was careless and did not see to it that the river
covered the part of the body she was holding, which was the heel of
his foot. This vulnerable heel is where the Trojans would land
the murderous arrow.
Later, the specifics of the fate of Achilles were revealed-the Greeks
could not take Troy without him. And the abduction of Helen of Troy
"the face that launched a thousand ships", a victim of fate as well
but still the "cause of it all", would lead to the Trojan War, and thus
the death of Achilles. Thetis continued to go to great and futile
lengths to avoid her son's fate, including disguising him as a female
and sending him to live among the maidens on the island of Scyros. This
was not a difficult task since apparently Achilles was more beautiful
than all of the heroes and was "without beard". The belligerent
Greek warriors, excited by the prospect of war and knowing that Achilles
could lead them to victory, discovered him there, among the maidens. Excessively
vain, Achilles left the island aware that destiny had left him a choice
to either die in the siege of Troy and win everlasting glory, or retreat
shamefully home and live to an old age.
After reluctantly agreeing to lead the Greeks, Achilles often stayed behind
in numerous battles, brooding, refusing to fight, and ambivalent, avoiding
what would certainly be his demise. Achilles often cited the constant
squabbling and in-fighting with his fellow Greeks (Agamemnon and Menelaus,
in particular) for his refusal to fight "for men who have disgraced me".
But not even the pretense of defending his own honor among his fellow
Greeks could postpone his fate. Even his horse, Xanthus, spoke to
Achilles to remind him of his doom-"Indeed, my dreaded master, the hour
of your death is drawing near…"
When Achilles learned of the death of his beloved Patroclus at the hands
of the Trojoans, he was seized with loss and shocked into action. Grief
took hold of Achilles, so black that those around him feared for his life.
In order to avenge the death of Patroclus, Achilles furiously and
wholeheartedly led the Greeks into battle-" I will kill the destroyer
of him who I loved and then I will accept death when it comes", thus ensuring
his place in the pantheon of Greek heroes. After Achilles was burned
on the funeral pyre, his remains were placed in the same urn that held
those of his friend Patroclus, a most intimate act in Greek Culture.
The Show (Achilles Heels) is a theatrical rendering of this character,
set in the present day. It is an illustration of certain aspects
of his story most intriguing to me. In particular, his loving loyalty,
and the duality of the private life of the great warrior/hero. His
story is set amidst the bizarre context of the essentially innocent Helen-
a pawn and the "excuse for war", whose only crime was her extreme good
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