dirac

Naked or not?

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What is ideal beauty and why is a clothed form more or less beautiful than a naked one?

I suppose the concept is that a nude form is the essence of the human body.

It is interesting to note how the concept of "perfection" of form in the human has evolved and is obviously different depending on context.

I have always found dancers bodies to be the most aesthetic in general, being well toned and defined. I wonder why actually seeing the genitalia would be so distracting when we know they are there? Yet, in the male nudity seems to destroy the line and harmony of the form... in females I see no difference at all.

Clothing can add a layer of meaning to the human form and it is something we come to expect in reading people.

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Perhaps there should be a rule about nudity in ballet: you have to perform the piece twice in succession. The second time would allow the audience to focus (as is proper) on the choreography and the artistry. :dry:

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I think that nudity is more acceptable in modern dance and even in contemporary ballet, but not in classical or romantic ballet, I think that the men are already naked enough in the tights and shirt outfit things and that it may be taking things to far for that to be done.

I'd probably agree with this, although I never even thought of the subject. The only thing that interests me in it is really that in classical ballet I don't see how it could ever work, and even this would only be if were a matter of interfering with the movement--which it would. As far as not needing it for 'artistry', that in itself would never constitute an argument outside the particular art. If it did, there would never have been needed painted or sculpted nudes (which I'm sure have been mentioned in this thread, which I hadn't seen till now), nor would Catherine Deneuve nude in her 50's ever have been used in a film or photograph, etc.

Along the same lines, but the polar opposite of anything necessary, the Topless Cellist of the 60s was just a gimmick and cannot have meant anything else except that you could not pay any attention to the music no matter what, but much stage, film and performance art work needs nudity. What nudity has been used in contemporary dance I am not very aware of, even if I have seen it (I'm really just not sure.) I wouldn't even object to it in classical ballet if I didn't like the phrase 'the men are already naked enough in the tights and shirt outfit things' and that I don't want to be distracted by the genitals of either sex during it--and there is no way you wouldn't be, because when you are not used to seeing something in certain contexts, you cannot keep your eyes off it even if it's not worth looking at.

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My 2¢

Distracting? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Tyrannical (for vulnerable dancers)? Oh yeah. Prurient? Potentially. Necessary? Why?

In such a controversial area, with such a range of personal beliefs, I see little gain for ballet which requires movements I would find utterly incompatible with comfort in the vast majority of choreography. As so many have stated, nudity is not something we see every day, and casual nudity may be unwelcome to many--not necessarily a sign of prudishness. Also since when is modesty the same as prudishness?

One more thought. This is all about art, artifice, and illusion. Part of the brilliance is that it's not cinema verité, a documentary, or faithfully (seamlessly?, objectively?, transparently?) revealing all with no discretion, human agency, or choice. This is an artistic effort to symbolize, and produce resonant representations. Including nudity, I think would make it more difficult to direct audience attention and reaction, like including a joker in the hand you are dealing...

In the end, IMO I think a lot depends on how anxious one is to fill the seats. I think the audience that seeks and appreciates nudity is bigger than the audience for ballet. Maybe classical dance can become a destination for that group in the interests of the bottom line :dry:

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Why can't that (the lack of conformation to the "ideal nude"), be a point of interest instead of a distraction?

What is wrong in presenting various body types as attractive and interesting?

Whether we experience it as interesting or distracting isn't really up to us; we can tell ourselves something is beautiful but we can't make ourselves perceive it that way. Over time our tastes may expand and we may find beauty where we'd missed it before, but in the meantime we're distracted, and even a "that's interesting" reaction is a distraction from the real subject matter at hand, the choreography. I like Bart's perform-it-twice rule. And some of us might need more viewings than that. :dry:

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Whether we experience it as interesting or distracting isn't really up to us; we can tell ourselves something is beautiful but we can't make ourselves perceive it that way. Over time our tastes may expand and we may find beauty where we'd missed it before, but in the meantime we're distracted, and even a "that's interesting" reaction is a distraction from the real subject matter at hand, the choreography. I like Bart's perform-it-twice rule. And some of us might need more viewings than that. :dry:

Before I continue, I want to be clear I'm not suggesting anyone perform swan lake or giselle etc in the nude! I agree that there are works (the entire classical repertoire for example!) where it simply does not work, and would really be distracting and interfere with enjoyment of the work.

That said, I actually don't see what you say above as any reason for omitting the nude in dance, especially not in more modern works.

Having nude dancers does not need to be merely sensationalist, but can be used to challenge these tastes and norms of beauty that are current in our culture. It can be an artistic statement, and to me art is not just about beauty, but can also serve to challenge an audience and make them think.

Using the naked body in this way is, to me, a very legitimate way of challenging an audience and causing them to think about what beauty is, and how it is perceived.

You said:

"even a "that's interesting" reaction is a distraction from the real subject matter at hand, the choreography"

I certainly can see what you mean here, and in some works (where the nudity seems pointless and gratiuitous) I would agree.

But you are assuming that the choreography and the nudity are not intrinsically intertwined. Perhaps the point of such a dance *IS* to challenge norms of beauty, and the choreography and nudity are working together to achieve that end...Wouldn't that be a valid goal for art?

I'm really not disagreeing with anything you said above, except that I think it an admirable and appropriate goal for art to act to change ideas of beauty.

(can you tell I'm a performer?)

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Perhaps the point of such a dance *IS* to challenge norms of beauty, and the choreography and nudity are working together to achieve that end...Wouldn't that be a valid goal for art?

I agree that this would be a perfectly valid goal, aurora, but I also think it would be a reductive one for most choreographers.

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That said, I actually don't see what you say above as any reason for omitting the nude in dance, especially not in more modern works.

Having nude dancers does not need to be merely sensationalist, but can be used to challenge these tastes and norms of beauty that are current in our culture. It can be an artistic statement, and to me art is not just about beauty, but can also serve to challenge an audience and make them think.

I'm really not disagreeing with anything you said above, except that I think it an admirable and appropriate goal for art to act to change ideas of beauty.

(can you tell I'm a performer?)

Absolutely -- as long as aesthetic considerations aren’t trumped by the desire to challenge -- I don't want to be challenged if it's not also good dancing -- and I wouldn’t mind going to see such a work. (I don’t see how nudity could ever work in classical dance, for practical and artistic reasons, but never say never.)

Thanks to you, Sami~Poo, and everyone else who’s contributed to the revival of this thread. I guess there’s always something new to say. :dry:

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Perhaps the point of such a dance *IS* to challenge norms of beauty, and the choreography and nudity are working together to achieve that end...Wouldn't that be a valid goal for art?

I agree that this would be a perfectly valid goal, aurora, but I also think it would be a reductive one for most choreographers.

It depends on what your interests are I suppose. Some choreographers think making a statement about the female body is worthwhile.

Might I suggest people look at the website of my friend Julie.

http://www.julieatlasmuz.com/

Julie Atlas Muz is a Whitney bienniale artist.

She thinks nudity is something worth talking about in her art.

from her website about her current piece at PS122 ( http://www.julieatlasmuz.com/divine.shtml )

"Miss Exotic World and Miss Coney Island 2006, a 2004 Whitney Biennial and Valencia Bienal Artist, Muz continues to celebrate the ever political lineage of naked ladies in public spaces as set in motion by Lady Godiva."

Please be advised that there is some nudity on her website, if this is a problem, don't look please. I don't want anyone to be offended or upset by this. I just thought it might bring a different aspect to this discussion. She really is fantastic.

She is definitely not ballet, but this thread was more generally about nudity in dance so it seemed to me appropriate.

I hope this caveat serves to disuade anyone who might be offended from looking at this link, the last thing I want is for anyone to be made uncomfortable.

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I visited the link of Julie Atlas Muz and only saw irreverence.. the poking of fun at stereotypes and cultural icons. Someone has to do it, and few have the interest or the guts. She does.

I was mostly bored, not outraged and found it not very interesting nor aesthetically pleasing.

Society and culture is built on a somewhat rigid structure of "meanings" and it is not especially difficult to identify them and use them for parody... essentially exploding the myth of meaning. Hey look ma... we made up all these myths and we all accept without question.

However, we can't build a society or a culture of arts without some sort of structure, meaning and hence icons. Much of post modern art is asking us to examine these icons and assumptions and show that their meaning is illusory like the emperor's new clothes... we all buy into these narratives. Art is really a meta world... it doesn't exist... we created it and we believe it exists.

And so what? This IS what makes the human mind and distinguishes us from animals... we create a meta world and everyone has one in their own mind.

There is nothing revolutionary in the idea that humans with their brains and powers to reason and abstraction have created a complex of intersecting systems and ideas which define society and culture. She, and others believe that pointing to it can be humorous and some sort of "art" in itself. We all know ideas don't exist... So what else is new? If it's meta it is art!

In looking at her work, I didn't find it amusing or even interesting. How easy it is to do myth busting and blow apart cultural stereotypes. She displays some talent, and uses nudity ( a societal no no) to expose what she believes is hypocrisy about nudity and the female body in our culture. So what? It's nothing but a bore. Perhaps to those so trapped in the myths, stereotypes and icons this may shock their world, make them laugh and even think about these stereotypes.

I return to my earlier comment above about clothing and covering our bodies. This usually is for protective purposes, task related and to convey some sort of message, such as status in society.

But there is the underlying notion that the naked human can be and is beautiful. So why hide it? Dance doesn't hide the human form. Her Rite of Spring tries to turn the idea of our clothing and the naked body upside down (literally)... but having costumes which conceal the form and show it awkwardly and then exposing the genitals and their purpose in sex and procreation IS the "real" rite of spring. Trite.

Many choreographers do use minimal costuming to reveal as much of the body as possible and the human form is completely revealed in all its glory. The final step to nudity brings back some of the individuality and the humanity by exposing flesh (and genitals) as well as form.

But of course this is only furthering the individuality of the dancer which is really most notably contained in the face of each dancer.

Stripping away all clothing and costume would reduce the dance to what can be derived from the meaning of movement, gesture, form and context. A story ballet, for example, would lose much of its message and meaning. Then take away the sets and what have you but naked humans dancing. What have you lost and what have you gained?

You have lost much of the ballet, obviously. But perhaps you will be forced to looked at the movement as a pure aesthetic.. devoid of cultural context. Fine... this is analogous to where modern art went in the 20th century away from objective art to abstraction. And it deconstructed art till there was almost nothing there there in the end (in my opinion). It reductionism to the level what nothing is left where meaning can reside.

I am not shocked nor interested in nudity and actually more annoyed that those who "play" with it for "attention". Having seen enough of it in my lifetime it is certainly no longer erotic or even titillating. I prefer to see the human form dressed because I find that has more meaning and nuance... and is equally, of not more aesthetically pleasing.

So, in my way of seeing dance, I like to see the beauty of the human form.. not hidden by bulky costuming, but neither reduced to pure naked forms in motion. I find unitards work better than nudity because I don't know that exposed genitalia contribute to form or movement... that is, unless the dance is literally about sex. If it were, exposing genitals would make sense. If it is not, it is only a distraction, like noise or a scratches on a record... they fog the message.

Naked makes sense in the shower or the bed... no?

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I was intrigued by the page dedicated to Muz's version of the Stravinsky "Rite of Spring." A rock transcription of the score -- and, you will note, no nudity (at least in the photos given here).

With the love and lust typical of spring, burlesque star and performance artist Julie Atlas Muz restaged Stravinsky’s Modernist Masterpiece, The Rite of Spring as a fierce dance epic inspired by the life and death of Jon Benet Ramsey. The music was played live by Chicago's ButcherShop Quartet, the only rock band to transpose Stravinsky's orchestral masterpiece to two guitars, a bass and drums while retaining compositional integrity

http://www.julieatlasmuz.com/spring.shtml

If it came to my town, I'd certainly give it a shot.

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There was some nudity at the end of the online video clip where several dancers are upside down... with their full skirts covering their upper body and their legs spread wide apart exposing their naked genitalia facing skyward ( I believe some were men in drag... but the clip is quite small)... in an almost obscene/provocative and "suggestive" manner.

Having seen that clip... I wouldn't waste my time in going to a performance... I saw enough.

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So, in my way of seeing dance, I like to see the beauty of the human form.. not hidden by bulky costuming, but neither reduced to pure naked forms in motion. I find unitards work better than nudity because I don't know that exposed genitalia contribute to form or movement... that is, unless the dance is literally about sex. If it were, exposing genitals would make sense.

If there are any, I'd like to see some of these dances about sex, of which I am a big fan, but not any ballets, including contemporary, that I can think of. I also like to see the beauty of the human form 'hidden by bulky costuming' as in the last act of 'Sleeping Beauty' when all the court and fairy tale people march in; the Bluebirds near nudity make a nice contrast to all the big costumes, which look good on, say, Elizabeth McGorian.

Naked makes sense in the shower or the bed... no?

Not necessarily, and it does make sense in myriad other situations. Maybe you have 'seen enough of it in your lifetime', but I haven't and I want to see a lot more. There is always the possibility of eroticism, and there are many contexts in which only the totally nude will do. It just never is ballet, classical or contemporary, as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to see any at all there.

The music was played live by Chicago's ButcherShop Quartet, the only rock band to transpose Stravinsky's orchestral masterpiece to two guitars, a bass and drums while retaining compositional integrity

http://www.julieatlasmuz.com/spring.shtml

That quote from Bart's link interested me, because there is little reason to believe it's anything but publicity. I neither believe nor disbelieve a word of such a claim of 'retaining compositional integrity' while reducing Stravinsky. In addition, it makes it sound as though this particular use of a few instruments was commonplace. Part of my bias about this kind of thing is that I am an absolute diehard fan, literally a worshipper of Duke Ellington, but he did do one thing I utterly abhor: That arrangement of 'The Nutcracker Suite', which I just cannot stand. I'd even rather hear Karoui.

However, if someone would choose to use 'Le Sacre du Printemps' in a piece about Jon-Benet Ramsey, which defies credulity as far as I'm concerned, I do suppose it didn't need to recall images of Nijinsky. Better for it to be completely concealed in some little rock piece.

I would imagine that some of Julie Atlas Muz's may be able to use nudity, although if there is any in the Jon-Benet piece, I don't think I'd like it. It seems from the website that the nudity is the point. I cannot see how that would work in the case of little Miss Ramsey, because it short-circuits from the tragedy. Her story is not just another 'Naked Lady' story.

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Naked makes sense in the shower or the bed... no?

Not necessarily, and it does make sense in myriad other situations. Maybe you have 'seen enough of it in your lifetime', but I haven't and I want to see a lot more. There is always the possibility of eroticism, and there are many contexts in which only the totally nude will do. It just never is ballet, classical or contemporary, as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to see any at all there.

Agreed.

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I come from a background of modern dance, so I've seen lots of nudity on stage. (I've never performed in the nude myself. The closest I came to that was while wearing a translucent white dress.) Personally, I never want to see a naked dancer on stage again. This really hit home a couple of years ago when I went to see a piece by Daniel Léveillé with the decidedly unsubtle title Amour, acide et noix. Léveillé has an obsession with the naked body, as his web site boasts, and knowing that I would spend the entire evening staring at four naked dancers, I made a point of sitting in the back row, which still wasn't far enough from the stage. I ask you, when a nude female dancer stands downstage centre, turns her back to the audience, bends forward to put her hands on the floor and then holds that position for a good two minutes, is any sort of aesthetic purpose being served? I'm still hoping some neurologist will come up with a way of blotting the memory of that piece from of my mind. For those who are interested in getting some idea of what Amour, acide et noix is like, here's a link to a video clip:

Amour, acide et noix

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In Germany and in Europe generally nude dancing has become almost the norm in contemporary dance (and sometimes too in classical ballets)- you will have a hard time finding a contemporary ballet without any nudity.

In some european ballet companies it already has gotten that far that a dancer has to sign a policy in his contract that he has to dance in the nude if the choreograper or the costume department demand that! Ughhhhh..... :) :mellow:

This seems quite exaggerated to me. I don't know any company that requires dancers to sign such a contract. I think we are talking of nudity and mean that genitals and female breasts are covered at least. With the rest what is the problem? A dancer is used to reveal his body, and barechested males is the norm in ballet at least in modern dance. I don't see an esthetical or moral problem.

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Thnks, benvolio90, for bringing back this thread. You gave me the opportunity to re-read the posts. There's lots of interesting stuff here.

For those who missed the thread originally, or anyone who's had new thoughts on this topic: what do you think about the original question?

Here's the post with which dirac opened the discussion back in September of 2005:

This fairly long article by Sharon Verghis for the Sydney Morning Herald is an overview of the current debate over nudity and ballet, and I thought it would be interesting to canvass our posters for opinions on the matter. Here's the link:

Out of step over shock of the nude

This topic has come up before, but I thought it might be time to bring it up again for some fresh perspectives, assuming we have any. What do you think? Is nudity always acceptable? Never? Occasionally? Verghis cites some recent examples by contemporary choreographers; have you seen any, and how did you react?

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I'm still hoping some neurologist will come up with a way of blotting the memory of that piece from of my mind.

:clapping:

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Welcome, Benvolio !

This seems quite exaggerated to me. I don't know any company that requires dancers to sign such a contract. I think we are talking of nudity and mean that genitals and female breasts are covered at least.

Actually no, from the examples which were mentioned in this thread (including the one by volcanohunter just above your message...)

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Am I right that there's a ban on nudity in dance performance in the USA right now?

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Am I right that there's a ban on nudity in dance performance in the USA right now?

How, pray tell, would such a national ban be enforced? By the FBI?

Many localities have specific laws aimed at "exotic" dancing; I imagine some have even more restrictive laws that are applied to concert dance as well. But to my knowledge there's no federal law about this--wouldn't it violate the First Amendment?

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Many localities have specific laws aimed at "exotic" dancing; I imagine some have even more restrictive laws that are applied to concert dance as well. But to my knowledge there's no federal law about this--wouldn't it violate the First Amendment?
You're right that this is an area left to the states (and, by extension, to local governments). These cases often end up in federal courts because of the claim that the states have violated rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Googling turned up a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1991 -- Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc. -- which upheld the Indiana "public indecency" law in a case involving totally nude dancing in a bar setting. In other words, in cases similar to the Indiana case, totally nude dancing is NOT a form of "expressive conduct" protected by the first Amendment. As a result of this decision, the Indiana "public indecency" law -- as well as similar state laws -- is constitutional.

How this would apply to nude dancing in a non-alcoholic setting, especially by a company with a track record of legitimate artistic pursuits, I don't know.

Does anyone have any knowledge of the situation in "resepectable" dance?

Here's a brief summary of the case, minus the arguments of the 4 dissenting justices: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/90-26.ZS.html

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Part and parcel of this case is that it touches on conduct in a place in which a primary attraction is the drinking of alcoholic beverages. When Prohibition was repealed, the 22nd Amendment was very careful to establish states' rights in the area of alcohol control, and in many states, nude or demi-nude performances in barrooms is illegal not by the artistic content of the dancing, but simply because it takes place in a place where alcoholic beverages are consumed. In many states, "local option" holds sway, and there may be entirely "dry" counties right next to ones where alcohol is freely available. In Orange County, New York, where I live, for instance, the strongest thing you can get at a "strip club" is a V-8. I wish that the Court's opinion had visited that provision of modern alcohol control, as its opening paragraphs seemed to suggest, but the subject is still not one that the Supreme Court would care to get into, even as late as 1991. Dissent seemed to edge toward it, then backed hurriedly away, as commenting upon nude dancing in Lincoln Center - there's a bar in the Concourse level, after all. In New York State, most of the enforcement in strip clubs comes from the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and local police.

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lIn Orange County, New York, where I live, for instance, the strongest thing you can get at a "strip club" is a V-8.

"Spicy hot with a zesty kick" or . . . well, never mind. :clapping:

I don't know if Eiko and Koma are still dancing in the nude, but when I saw them 20 years ago it wasn't about sexuality, which is presumably what anyone would object to. And yet still, to answer dirac's question which begun this thread (have you seen any, and how did you react?), it was distracting. A beautiful face is distracting enough. Genitals can't dance.

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