#TBT: Jennifer Penney and Sir Anthony Dowell in "Manon" (1982)

October 7, 2020

Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon shows the extremes of opulence and poverty, love and greed, bliss and sorrow. While the ballet ends in tragedy, the bedroom pas de deux at the end of Act I is one of its most joyful, brimming with promise and passion. In this clip from 1982, former Royal Ballet principals Jennifer Penney and Sir Anthony Dowell sweep each other—and the audience—off their feet in this iconic duet.

Penney, as the smitten Manon, flaunts her charms to catch Dowell’s attention and entices him to dance with her. Their initial giddiness gives way to pure elation after a passionate kiss, and Penney lets Dowell toss and spin her with complete abandon. Both have an exceptional sense of line, creating elegant symmetries out of MacMillan’s unusual shapes. Throughout the pas de deux, moments of technical mastery make us stop to marvel—like Dowell’s attitude pirouettes and Penney’s floor-skimming pas de couru. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!