dirac

Naked or not?

132 posts in this topic

I'm not sure what I think about this topic, so it's good to read this thread.. Right now, I am leaning towards the position expressed in Alastair Macaulay's NY Times piece, linked by dirac above. (Thanks, dirac.) Especially the following:

[When tights are removed from ballet, the art itself is changed. Ballet, the genre that once recaptured the ideal quality of nudity, becomes instead, in these modern examples, the art of nakedness. This could prove a valuable new departure, but it’s worth considering its implications. The look of the bare leg drastically changes the entire aesthetics of the form. Muscular details of thigh, knee, calf become suddenly distracting. The leg becomes real, the arabesque not.

Perhaps I was exposed to too much well-intentioned, but clumsily executed, naked dance -- and, frankly, too many less-than-beautiful bodies -- in the downtown NYC dance scene of the 60s and 70shuh.pngspeechless-smiley-003.gif Naked bodies definitely have their place on stage. But for me, nakedness when put in a spotlight is inevitably about literalism. It expresses a value system of "warts and all."

Ballet, on the other hand, is most effective when it idealizes the body and the body's ability to express feeling and music through movement. For me, this is what is most characteristic of classical ballet, and of classical dancing of all kinds. I don't just mean "looking pretty." Classical ballet is an art that focuses our eye on physical essentials while avoiding the distractions of too many competing details.

In this sense, if one exposes all the body parts and surface markings, it is just as bad as loading the dancers with costumes with far too many decorations.

Share this post


Link to post

Unnecesary to me-(at least in each and every single performance I've seen it). Can live with it if pointes are not mixed in the equation though. Otherwise, silver bullet with it.

Share this post


Link to post

A few paragraphs ago, I was talking about dancers showing us the cracks between their buttocks or deconstructing anal sex. So isn’t it trivial to talk of a ballerina merely baring her thighs and calves? Well, no.

Well, yes. I do have some trouble equating a dry hump onstage with barelegged ladies. Danseurs have occasionally gone without tights, as Macaulay notes, without posing a threat to the essence of the art form. I don't much care for the pointes-without-tights look, but it could be because I just don't see it that frequently (not that I'm complaining). As I remember Croce's original the-arabeseque-is-real quote in context, she was not talking so much about the idealization of the ballerina's body but her body presented as an abstraction, which isn't the same thing. What's so horrid about being reminded from time to time of the fleshly humanity of a female dancer by the removal of tights?

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, dirac, for pointing out the differences between "naked" and "without tights." For me, the choice has a lot to to do with the piece itself. A bare-legged Aurora or Giselle, or (more extremely) a Prince in Speedos, work against the the story, music, feeling, and historical context of the piece. With neoclassicism and contemporary works, the situation is different,

... [Croce] was not talking so much about the idealization of the ballerina's body but her body presented as an abstraction, which isn't the same thing.
An interesting point, if I understand it correctly. It's funny how conversations like this often hinge on what we mean by our key vocabulary. Croce was fond of making sweeping pronouncements that sometimes depended, when you thought about, on highly personal, and ofdten unexplained, definitions.

"Abstraction" seems pretty clear, though I'm having trouble imagining what Croce could have meant in this context. A stripping away of non-essentials?

As for "idealization," too often it is used to suggest de-sexualization or prettiness -- the opposite of "real." I prefer to think of it as a kind of meta-realism. A way of experiencing physical reality in terms of larger (possibly "higher") meanings and values. Beauty and even sexuality can and do transcend the physical surfaces of the human body.

Share this post


Link to post

What's so horrid about being reminded from time to time of the fleshly humanity of a female dancer by the removal of tights?

Nothing, in my opinion, but physical attractiveness can momentarily distract me from the actual choreography.

bart wrote:

As for "idealization," too often it is used to suggest de-sexualization or prettiness -- the opposite of "real." I prefer to think of it as a kind of meta-realism. A way of experiencing physical reality in terms of larger (possibly "higher") meanings and values. Beauty and even sexuality can and do transcend the physical surfaces of the human body.

Very nicely put, as usual. "A way of experiencing physical reality in terms of larger (possibly "higher") meanings and values" is not a bad way of defining a lot of ballet in general, although the experience isn't always conscious.

This

features bits of Symphony in 3 Movements and Duo Concertant danced barelegged, beginning at the 48 second mark.

Share this post


Link to post

This

features bits of Symphony in 3 Movements and Duo Concertant danced barelegged, beginning at the 48 second mark.

I like that look on Fairchild and on the female corps. The subtle movement of muscles and tendons, along with the shifts in light and shadow, fit the music and the choreography quite well. on the other hand , the distraction of the busy white-on-black NYC Ballet tee shirts on the men confirm my feeling that "too much is too much." But the women's naked legs -- wonderful.

Somehow, I found myself thinking of several beautifully drawn charts of muscle groups on a male torso, displayed on the walls of my gym.

The SVConcerto clip with Hyltin clapping.gif and Fairchild has the feel of a performance that might have been given when Balanchine was around. This demonstrates to me that, tights or no tights, it's what you do with the body that counts most.

Share this post


Link to post

Nudity in ballet-no thank you, especially in classical/romantic ballets, but preferably in none. One of the things I love about ballet is the aura of romance and glamour in the older ballets, and nudity destroys that. Besides, most of the heroines in the older ballets are supposed to be young girls, virginal and/or ethereal, and nudity would shatter that aura. Also, I think nudity is incompatible with the artifice of classical ballet. And finally, call me a prude-nudity is for painting and sculpture, when done tastefully.

Share this post


Link to post