September 26th, 2008

A moment in history leads to a moment in ballet history

I was sent the following photo with a request that I offer an explanation of this riveting ballet tableau:


I would be only too happy to oblige.

What you are viewing is a photo of a seminal but rarely-seen experimental work set in the Civil War era and entitled “Mary Todd Lincoln and the Frilled Lizards.” It dramatizes the story of the terrible night Mrs. Lincoln, nerves already fraught by years of war and suffering, was set upon on the White House lawn by eight large specimens of the frill-neck lizard ((Chlamydosaurus kingii) escaped from a nearby zoo.

The lizards were disguised as young women through the clever ruse of wearing beribboned bonnets. Although Ms. Lincoln recognized them as the reptiles they were and was initially terrified, she soon realized (having been led to the Wikipedia entry by Googling) that these lizards only display the ruff when frightened and attempting to ward off predators. Therefore even the excitable Mrs. Lincoln was able to calm down and enjoy the encounter.

This is the exact moment depicted in the photograph (meant to be viewed only from the front and not from behind) of the ballet. And to show you how brave Mrs. Lincoln must have been, just imagine eight giant versions of these things coming at you:

[NOTE: If you wish to see a larger image of the dance photo, please go here.]

5 Responses to “A moment in history leads to a moment in ballet history”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    I always suspected that ballet was a clever camouflage of frilled lizard lunging and praying mantis copulation.

    Which is why smart men avoid ballet, but not ballet dancers.

  2. Jamie Says:

    Frilled lizards are about the funniest-looking things going. The on-and-on-and-on running-at-the-camera video made me almost hysterical… Thanks!

  3. Portia Says:

    I love the poke bonnets as a cunning disguise. They took me COMPLETELY in. :D


    PS – Thanks, I needed a laugh just now.

  4. Tatyana Says:

    She was incredibly brave. in her place I would be the one climbing the tree!

  5. nyomythus Says:

    Is there an original url source to the picture or topic?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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