In the years leading up to the flowering of the Romantic ballet in Paris, exotic locales were much in vogue. Long a staple of the melodramas that were the standard fare of the popular, or boulevard, theaters, exoticism finally infiltrated even the official stage of the Opéra, which heretofore had been trod almost exclusively by ancient Greek and Roman gods and heroes. In 1806 two ballets based upon Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s enormously popular novel Paul et Virginie, set among the sugar-cane plantations of the Ile-de-France, had their premieres within days of each other: Les Deux Créoles at the Theatre de la Porte Saint-Martin and Paul et Virginie at the Opéra. Both took advantage of the setting to include a “pas nègre.”

Now contemporary Americans have a Creole ballet of their own: a restaging by Dance Theatre of Harlem of that touchstone of the Romantic...


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