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sandik

Acocella on Ballet and Sex

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OK, that was quite   :tiphat:

Back to Acocella...

Yes, back to Acocella -- after noting that the prohibitionists (who followed the abolitionists and preceded the suffragists) had their era. The motivation for banning alcohol was the number of women who suffered abuse by husbands who drank.

Of course, it would be amiss to disregard Abigail Adams' admonition to her husband during the Constitutional Convention to "remember the ladies" and grant them full, equal legal status. She was the grandmother of us all, but there were not enough of her to comprise a movement, alas.

But back to topic, I have no doubt that Abigail would have been appalled and offended by Acocella's subject matter!

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It's an interesting talk, particularly in the exposition part. Thanks for posting the link. Towards the end when things are supposed to come together my feeling is they fall apart, mostly because suddenly the talk turns out to be about two things - not just the liberation of the crotch, but also ("wouldn't it be nice?") whether Balanchine was a nice guy contrary to what some of the eighties feminists said.

I think we're sufficiently far removed in time to stop caring about the latter point. Is a Mozart opera better or worse for WAM being a nice person? I don't think so.

Resting even the tiniest bit of an argument on what "a friend of a friend of Balanchine's" said about what happened in the Balanchine bedroom is ridiculous. Presenting it as a semi-joke and nonetheless running with it is not a great way to go. It's also a strange throwback to eighties feminism, when non-penetrative forms of sex were considered to be more OK than the real McCoy.

But it doesn't matter; one thing we may safely assume about Balanchine's sex life, and that is he didn't have sex with friends of his friends, so what do they know?

I thought the idea that Agon is in some way referring to caring for LeClerq didn't add up to much, particularly because J.A. says herself that Balanchine's eroticism always includes feelings of caring and tenderness and anxiety anyway. She also enumerates, eloquently, the many losses Balanchine suffered before he even got the New York City, which somehow informed his art.*

Ultimately the argument is Balanchine revered and liberated the ballerina, and in his art this is obviously very true. Adducing material from his real life, both private and as a ballet-master doesn't really help, since it is equally true that in that realm he tried as hard as he could to restrict his ballerinas' lives to Balanchine dancing - no babies, not even boyfriends if he could help it.

Though of course even these matters are just anecdotal. Allegra Kent could come back every time she'd done and had another baby.

All in all I loved the talk for its frankness in plumb stating watching ballet is an erotic experience, and rejecting the modernist "abstract" attitude. We live in a world where we're 100% surrounded by the most brutal sexual imagery, and ballet would be a completely chaste art? And what's so good about that anyway?

It's interesting to note, in Q & A time, that people are still so excercised about bad Balanchine and his thin tall ballerinas. As Acocella notes, thin started with Pavlova and the Diaghilev ballerinas. And it's so US-centric. When I lived in America in the nineties (not in NYC) I was often surprised how pleasantly chubby dancers looked, compared to the rail-thin girls in Paris, Russia and the rest of Europe. So what are people talking about?

* Am I the only one who, on first seeing the Agon pdd, was vividly reminded of the childhood sex exploration games, "now I was the doctor and I'm going to have to look under your clothes"?

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Though of course even these matters are just anecdotal. Allegra Kent could come back every time she'd done and had another baby.
Ah, yes, but at a cost, which she details wistfully and poignantly in her autobiography.

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Not to beat a dead horse, but when Acocella referred to the first and second wave of feminism, clearly she did not mean to suggest that feminism didn’t get underway until 1967. She was speaking only of the contemporary movement and changing perceptions related to ballet.

though in fact in the performance Acocella showed, when Mitchell fell down on the floor, Adams stayed up -- for QUITE a while she stayed on pointe in arabesque de cote and actually promenaded to croise before she cam down... s either he KEPT HIS HAND RIGHT WHERE IT HAD BEEN, or she was ready for anything...

Yes, indeed.

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With all this talk about Balanchine and the crotch, what I found most disturbing was the clip from Ashton'sMonotones. The female dancer, clad in a white long-sleeved, long legged leotard, with a white cap on her head, and white pointe shoes, raises her leg to 6 o'clock while being slowly turned by two men---I thought, How Grotesque! she looked like a flag pole.

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With all this talk about Balanchine and the crotch, what I found most disturbing was the clip from Ashton'sMonotones.  The female dancer, clad in a white long-sleeved, long legged leotard, with a white cap on her head, and white pointe shoes, raises her leg to 6 o'clock while being slowly turned by two men---I thought, How Grotesque!  she looked like a flag pole.

I know the moment you refer to -- I don't really think of it as grotesque, but it's very disctintive, in part because Ashton's physicality is usually less manipulative. I think the the Monotones are his most Nikolais-like works -- exploring the body almost without reference to ballet, and yet finding moments of pure classical technique

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-I thought, How Grotesque!  she looked like a flag pole.

I think that was J.A.'s point. Ninety degrees and a little tutu is arguably more sexy than the six o'oclock position.

I wouldn't call the Ashton clip "disturbing;" rather the reverse, kind of dated. But I haven't seen the entire piece.

The funny thing is, when you look at the next clip (forgot the names) and turn down the loud punk rock music, what you see is beautiful slow hushed gliding pdd. As J.A. suggests, people were strange in the eighties.

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Herman Stevens wrote:

"We live in a world where we're 100% surrounded by the most brutal sexual imagery, and ballet would be a completely chaste art? And what's so good about that anyway?"

What's wrong is that looking to the woman's crotch in the ballet is the LAST thing on my mind, I would never have thought to do so and I'm not gay. There's something much higher than mere sexuality in the art form that I want to see.

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At the risk of identifying myself forever as a dirty old man, I must say that looking at a woman's crotch in ballet, particularly in Balanchine ballets, while not the first thing on my mind, is definitely not the last. I never look through opera glasses, however. :wub:

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From an article for Dance View on Arthur Mitchell coaching Agon

Unlike many of the other people in the Interpreters Archive, Mitchell regards the people watching and reporting on the filming not just as observers, but as an audience.  He addresses us directly and more than once he works the crowd, giving one of the writers a very elementary lesson in partnering, showing her how to place her hand in his.  She is enthralled when he asks if she senses how this grip works.  “Yes!" She enthuses. "That means you’re in charge.”  Mitchell smiles.

I didn't identify the writer at the time, but since it seems to add to the context here, it was Acocella.

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Leigh,

Would you expand on how this story you wrote about Arthur Mitchell coaching dancers in Agon adds to the context here, does it tell us something about Acocella?

I love Arthur Mitchell, he seems to have been in my consciousness from childhood, I don't know why I guess he's just been out there a lot in the media over the years. Diana Adams was so beautiful I think she's my favorite dancer, how nice that Agon was made on Adams and Mitchell I didn't know that.

Edited by nycdog5734

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unfortunately i cannot politely type what i think of this stupid lecture .....

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Thanks so much for posting this -- I haven't thought about this lecture in quite some time, but will be glad to go back and re-view.

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