A Startling Astarte
Aphrodite ... Venus ... Ishtar ... to the ancient Phoenicians, she was Astarte. Symbol of sex and fertility, lover and destroyer of men, taken by all, owned by none ... and recently hailed as the patron goddess of women's liberation. But to balletomanes at home and abroad, Astarte is the perennial showstopper of New York's hip and venturesome City Center Joffrey Ballet. One London critic called the work "so far out it will meet other ballets coming back," while New York Times critic Clive Barnes declared Astarte "not only better but far, far sexier" than Oh.' Calcutta! Company director-choreographer Robert Joffrey says, "Had I done the ballet in 1970, I would have done it nude, but the time was not yet right." Here, with impeccable timing, prima ballerina Nancy Robinson and Herbert Migdoll, Joffrey staff photographer and art director of Dance magazine, uncover for Playboy a new, never-before-seen Asfarfe. First of the multimedia hard-rock ballets--utilizing film and an award-winning score by Crome Syrcus--the Astarte myth became Migdoll's mission as he sought to capture "that cool, marble quality" of the goddess depicted in classic Assyrian and Greek sculpture. The lotus emblem on Astarte's brow is an eternal symbol of life seed nourished by water, and Migdoll waited months for the rare flora to bloom at Bluebeard's Castle in the Virgin Islands, a somewhat paradoxical site for his photographic essay on a tantalizing Astarte "who springs from the lotus like Botticelli's Venus on the half shell. Nancy was turned on by the setting; she thought the vines were sexy." California beautiful, with a "now" look and outlook that deepen her affinity for contemporary ballet, Nancy felt this new, wild, watery world might provide a wellspring of inspiration for Astar te. A man rises from the audience, moves toward the goddess as if in a trance, strips down to his briefs and takes her. She in turn uses her liberated sexual powers to emasculate him. So goes the onstage version of Astarte, a psychedelic sex dream re-created here by Migdoll, with Nancy and her partner, Christian Holder, sans costumes. "In performance, I have often wished we were nude," says Nancy, who once thought herself too human and earthly to dance Astarte. "I always begin feeling very celibate. Later, I get quite turned on ... I feel five or six different ways ... soft and alluring ... lustful ... the crazy kind of feeling, like an orgasm. At the end, I can't talk, or relate to people, sometimes for hours." Added to photographer Migdoll's light-show legerdemain inspired by the triumph of Astarte, those words yield more than a clue to Nancy Robinson's reputation as today's most erotic ballerina.