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Naked or not?Nudity in ballet and other dance forms


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#46 Sami~Poo

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Posted 31 January 2007 - 06:15 PM

I completly agree that nudity is distracting in most cases. In my dance history class we watched two versions of Rite of Spring, and in one, nudity was used, and in the other there was no nudity that I saw. [snip] 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.


[snip]





[size=1]Moderator's note: Portions including and referring to illegal video links were deleted.[/size]

Edited by carbro, 31 January 2007 - 06:43 PM.


#47 4mrdncr

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 05:08 PM

LA GIACONDA, Gran Teatre de Liceu (BARCELONA) 2005

How apropos this topic was as I was just thinking of asking what people thought of that Dance of the Hours? Now available on DVD. (Deborah Voigt as LG) It was contemporary in sets, but singers wore costumes that approximated the time period with some Comedia del 'Arte references. The Dance of the Hours all-female corps had flowing dresses, contemporary again. But the two principal dancers? A gold dusting of torsos for both Angel Corella and Leitizia Giuliani; him shirtless in cropped tights, she topless with some strategic body paint, and only a thong below.

My reaction(s):

1) First and foremost for me "what's the point?" ... There was an element of meeting/wooing/consummating in the choreography which may possibly explain the 'au natural' aspect, but it wasn't explicit (no pun intended). So then I thought, it's Europe, they don't care, everyone does it, so why not them too? But...WHAT is the point? HOW is it relevant to the action, the dance, the story?

2) "ouch,ouch,ouch" and "how unfair to her!--as usual, it's the female who provides the view. Poor Ms. Giuliani, despite the strength of her chest wall, would still have discomfort during and after the performance. And I did wonder if the gold dust/body paint made the partnering more difficult or not. Lots of rosin I assume to compensate? I also noticed that Mr. Corella was careful about where he placed his hands.

3)I should notify all world fitness gurus that all their routines and videos and exhorbitant fees will never provide them with the musculature, athleticism, and grace of Ms. Guiliani. Oh yeah, Mr. Corella's physique was not bad either. At least the second time I viewed the dvd, I managed to concentrate on technique and the fascinating play of what muscle was used during what step, and forget about the fact Ms. Giuliani was exposing more of both. Of course, technically, both dancers were superb.


The choreography was classical with embedded excerpts/references (intentional or not I do not know) to most of the classical rep (I saw lots of Swan Lake, Don Q, some Giselle, and of course Corsair etc.etc.). Christopher Wheeldon, who also used both dancers in his "Dance of the Hours" for the Met last year, commented that Ms. Giuliani was a 'good partner for Angel' with her 'bendy Italian thing' and I agree, physically and technically they were well matched. She did a beautiful penche, had a floating yet powerful jete to match his, and an extension and flexible back. Something else I subliminally felt rather than overtly observed was a VERY subtle, almost defiant attitude in Angel Corella's performance. A "so there" addressed to his audiance that changed into an almost ecstatic smile at the strength of the ovations after. I'm hoping, they, like myself, appreciated the dancing and dancers, rather than what they were wearing...or not.

#48 Haglund's

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 05:54 PM

It seems that a choreographer who decides to use nudity on stage, or vulgarity, or decides to have a performer light up a joint on stage, is doing so to cover up for shallow artistic content. Edginess replaces artistic skill. He canít figure out how to use the art formís discipline to metaphorically express his point, so he goes over-the-top literally. I doubt there is ever a case where such a choreographer hasnít relished the idea of shocking someone -- as if shocking someone is what art is all about. Hey, some people think it is.

#49 aurora

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 08:19 PM

One practical drawback to nudity in ballet is dancing on pointe. Any artistic statement would be subverted by an otherwise naked woman wearing a pair of pointe shoes.


Not to be obtuse, but why?

Donatello's David (the first freestanding nude since antiquity) wears a hat and boots...

(people kept mentioning sculpture and I just taught this work today so...)

#50 aurora

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Posted 01 February 2007 - 08:30 PM

Sometimes the distraction is the women's lack of "appendages". What looks great in a leotard or tutu doesn't always conform to our perception of an ideal nude. Most dancers these days aren't odalisques!


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?

Why can't dance be at the forefront of this, and highlight the beauty that is inherent in various body types? I'm sorry GWTW, but that comment really struck a nerve.

Hey I don't expect to see overweight ballerinas anytime soon, I'm not being naive about what the public and community will allow, but to expect ballet dancers to be sticks, and then say basically "ick, I don't want to see that naked!" based on them not fitting the "norm" of physical beauty is just ludicrous.

#51 SanderO

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 03:17 AM

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.

#52 bart

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 05:50 AM

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:

#53 papeetepatrick

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 07:32 AM

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.

#54 2dds

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 08:32 AM

My 2Ę

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 veritť, 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:

#55 kfw

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 09:20 AM

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:

#56 aurora

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 09:37 AM

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?)

#57 kfw

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 09:48 AM

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.

#58 dirac

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Posted 02 February 2007 - 11:22 AM

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 arenít trumped by the desire to challenge -- I don't want to be challenged if it's not also good dancing -- and I wouldnít mind going to see such a work. (I donít 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 whoís contributed to the revival of this thread. I guess thereís always something new to say. :dry:

#59 aurora

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 12:51 AM

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.julieatla...om/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.

#60 SanderO

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 04:50 AM

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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