Mickey the Russian Major, who I met at the Iowa Gay Pride March in 1981, told me about the Ballet Ruses, founded by Sergei Diaghilev to showcase the muscular bodies of male dancers, and his protege and lover Vaslev Nijinsky, who scandalized audiences with his homoerotic interpretation of L'apres-midi d'un faun (The Afternoon of a Faun). My professor in Russian Culture and Civilization also told me that they were gay, symptoms of the "decadence" of fin de siecle Russia.
But how could you do a homoerotic interpretation of The Afternoon of a Faun?
The original poem by Stephane Mallarme (1875), is a masterpiece of symbolist literature, but with no gay content. A male faun of Greek mythology chases and has sex with several female nymphs, while saying things like "Ces nymphes, je les veux perpétuer" (These nymphs, I would perpetuate them).
1. Training all eyes on his body, his masculine virility, not on the nymphs.
2. Training his eye on his lover, Diaghilev, so his autoerotic fantasy is about men.
It received mixed reviews and some downright hostility, so was only performed a few more times.
In the 1980 movie Nijinsky, Nijinksy was played by George de la Pena, and Diaghilev by the gay actor Alan Bates.
See also modern dancers Ted Shawn and Erick Hawkins.