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Naked or not?Nudity in ballet and other dance forms


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#106 fredaster

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 06:18 AM

Some people may find nudity offensive in art ,we are going back in time.I wish I could tell you the name of this performance,probably the best ballet opera I never witness.I made all kind of research without any success.It was a cold night right after hockey night in Canada,the year is 1988 to 1990 cant really remember.It was a Sunday night special presentation for tv,it strated around midnight on chanel 4.Mme Adrienne Clarkson was a guess and only made a brief discourt before a man presented the Ballet opera.First it open with an orchestra and a french woman as a opera.Then there was a couple of dancer in what seem to be flamingo in Spain ,the woman dancer had a long red dress.The other act was quite different ,a man in white thigh and a woman in a white long dress ,thing is it was almost see true,as the male dancer lift her up ,you could tell she had no panties what so ever,erotic or what ? The next part involved around twenty ballet dancers,dancing to the french opera woman voice and the music of the orchestra.The men was dress in white and you could almost see there genitals ,the woman had short white dress like in the Ceasar area,thing is every one forgot panties, as the males dancers lift there partners up you could see there most intime parts....Flesh it was.As a grand Final ,the main dancer lifting the Star up and holding her with her legs wide open right in front of the camera,you could see ,as it was so close , pubic hair and no fake outfit there,Wow...For a tv late night show it was defenitly not for kids and not uncensored ether.This was the 90's I guest people was more open to nudity then 2009.Some one told me it was L'île des amoureux...I know it was about love but dont know the title yet and it is more than twenty years ago and I remember that show,can you say the same today ? There was an ovation from the public present at the time....Probably just produced for tv and not for public purchased.This was quite the performance,for nudity in Ballet and Opera together....Thanks for reading.

#107 Philip

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 10:01 AM

I always reserve one elective ballet class per week as a "seminar". In addressing the truth of what has been called "avant garde' theatre, I provoke a discussion regarding nudity in ballet. No, I don't show video examples, LOL! However, I often mention the ballets of Flemming Flint who (passed away last March), in "Triumph over Death" (based on Ionesco) and a few others, incorporated nudity...full frontal nudity - often with outrageous and provocative choreography to match.

I remark to my young students that "if they ever visit Copenhagen, look for a ladies bathroom." If they ever find one, they should let me know. Well, their likely are a few men's and women's rooms, but many are simply "publicly shared bathrooms". I tell them this because the Nordic European view of gender and the human body isn't quite so confined as ours in the US...or even more, other conservative cultures. Ergo, a ballet incorporating nudity in Copenhagen might be less challenging than it is here in the US. Certainly, when RDB performed in the US, a disclaimer was given at point of purchase that the ballet included "nudity and scenes not appropriate for children"...or the faint of heart!

As a teacher in culturally conservative VA, I have to be careful that the content of any such discussion does not go beyond the the level that some of my Baptist preacher parents would be comfortable with. (I value my work...and my legal freedom!) So, I let all know that education about such issues as risk are necessary for students considering a career on stage. The proscenium arch is little protection from criticism (Am I right, Alexandra?! ), the eyes of the public, public scrutiny on one hand, and private lust on another.

I think too little is taught to students of theater, dance, opera and other performance regarding "performance risk". When hired, one is at the mercy of the director or content of the show. A very difficult task to do is to expose oneself to an audience in normal performance. Fears of being judged, stage-fright/performance-anxiety, fear of making a mistake, and even the risk of stage combat, 'flying' and backstage hazards in general are one thing to psychologically encounter and handle. Another is to stand naked in front of directors other performers and staff, as well as a theater of people, some of whom may not be that friendly...and others of whom may want to become a lot friendlier than they'd like waiting for them at the stage door after the show...(abonnés, anyone?...LOL!).

Regardless of whether nudity is appropriate in certain settings or not, is one question. But, I think educating students that they may be asked to take such risks is also important. They need to be prepared to make the decision for themselves as to whether or not to accept such employment when and if they are consistently working on stage.

-Philip

#108 Alexandra

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 10:15 AM

The last time they revived "Triumph of Death" in Copenhagen (a work which, shall we say, was not universally admired for reasons that had nothing to do with the nudity; I loved klingor's post in the early days of this thread), the women refused to dance nude.

I'm on the "if it's artistically necessary, it's ok" side of this. I wouldn't think twice about seeing nudity in performance art or modern dance (conditioning? :thumbsup: ) but, unless it's dramatically necessary, I'd be wary of it in ballet (or any virtuosic dance) for the reasons many people have already pointed out: discomfort, distraction, etc.

In DC, many years ago, a local modern dance company did a nude duet (the flautist was also nude) to protest the controversy then raging about Mapplethorpe's photographs. (Some Senators were appalled that federal money had funded an exhibit that showed the photos.) I loved the earnestness of the gesture, but they made the decision right before showtime, and hadn't worked out the details. What made matters worse, a cockroach became fascinated by the dancers and followed them around for the whole dance, and since there was as lot of stretching and rolling on the floor, the audience was completely distracted by the cockroach, and worried that the dancers would roll on it. Whether we were worried about crushing the cockroach or the effect on the dancers was a lively debate after the performance.

Edited by Alexandra, 17 July 2009 - 10:51 AM.
adding an afterthought


#109 Philip

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 10:59 AM

I saw one program at Netherlands Dans Theater where there was so much nudity that was so predictable and gratuitous that it was boring. Who wants to be bored with seeing a beautiful body?

Are you referring to "Bella Figura" by Kylian? (which was a catalyst for this discussion.) I actually liked that ballet because he used nudity to create a "genderless" effect, not of androgyny, rather of level ground for dance with both men and women without attempting the idea of interplay other than of simply 2 to several humans dancing together. Yet, I found that the sections of the ballet that were "clothed" to be intentionally sexually charged.
-----
I remember reading an article on nudist camps were those interviewed said that after a few days, the whole sexual component became null. The idea of "you've seen one human body, you've seen 'em all". From the point of view of dance, I know that some human bodies can cause arousal to some, repulsion to another; we all have our own internal filters. Certainly, viewing dancers nude might be more currently acceptable than viewing a Botero-esque figure in real life - ("in the flesh", so to speak). Are these attractions and rejections actually veils for our prejudices or preferences? Do these views reflect the causes and conditions which bring us to such views, or simply some flaw in the human psyche. I personally don't think it a flaw. But, I do think it a challenge to our view as a whole. Nudity is the ultimate intimate exposure of the physical. Possibly, we who view it could be just as exposed in our reactions to it, as those standing/dancing naked in front of us.

-Philip

#110 Philip

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 11:17 AM

The last time they revived "Triumph of Death" in Copenhagen (a work which, shall we say, was not universally admired for reasons that had nothing to do with the nudity; I loved klingor's post in the early days of this thread), the women refused to dance nude.


HA! That's great to know. The next time I use this as a discussion with my students, I'll mention that! BTW: I agree that the ballet was overkill, as I recall it.

I'm on the "if it's artistically necessary, it's ok" side of this. I wouldn't think twice about seeing nudity in performance art or modern dance (conditioning? :thumbsup: ) but, unless it's dramatically necessary, I'd be wary of it in ballet (or any virtuosic dance) for the reasons many people have already pointed out: discomfort, distraction, etc.


I agree. I can be said that breaking the bounds of ballet has its limits similar to a rhetorical question I hinted at on the "Balanchine" post a day or two ago: Where does ballet end when 'pioneering" & "experimentation" move passed familiar territory? Is it ballet if we dance naked in the dark without pointe shoes, using mostly contemporary techniques? Or is it simply contemporary self-indulgence, neglecting the necessity or not of audience? (Semantics? Yes? But, it -is- as important not only to referential linguistics, but also to the kinetic syntax and language of ballet.)

In DC, many years ago, a local modern dance company did a nude duet (the flautist was also nude) to protest the controversy then raging about Mapplethorpe's photographs. (Some Senators were appalled that federal money had funded an exhibit that showed the photos.) I loved the earnestness of the gesture, but they made the decision right before showtime, and hadn't worked out the details. What made matters worse, a cockroach became fascinated by the dancers and followed them around for the whole dance, and since there was as lot of stretching and rolling on the floor, the audience was completely distracted by the cockroach, and worried that the dancers would roll on it. Whether we were worried about crushing the cockroach or the effect on the dancers was a lively debate after the performance.


Oh, I remember the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and the Maplethorp conundrum that lead Bella Lewistsky to refuse NEA funding, all to well. The sculptures of dissenting politicians using "poop" as a medium, were amusing but serious attempts a squashing "federally controlled financial censorship."
---------------------------------------------
But I have a question about the nude duet: was the cockroach wearing clothes? Now -that- would have been a statement!!! ;@)

(As far as crushing cockroaches goes, I think the PETA attempt to make an issue of President Obama swatting flies, deconstructs such arguments, discrediting such otherwise well -meaning institutions, simply through its mere stating!)

-Philip.

#111 bart

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 04:36 PM

In DC, many years ago, a local modern dance company did a nude duet (the flautist was also nude)

I know that this is a serious topic. I am (honestly) fascinated by what's being posted. But ..., for some reason it's the naked "flautist" that I can't get out of my mind. :unsure: Naked dancers are ho-hum (to me at least). But a naked flute player. That truly seems "gratuitous" -- and much more disorienting (which satire is supposed to be).

On thing I'm getting from this topic is that the creator of performance art really needs to understand and take into account the cultural expectations/ sensibilities of his or her audience. The work changes as the audience changes. Members of a nudist colony will see one work; the lady's Bible study group will see another. In this situation, the "nudity", like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Meanwhile, I note that there is an organization dedicated to the promotion of playing the cello naked.
http://www.nakedcellist.org/

You'll have to Google "naked flutist" on your own to see a depiction of that.

#112 papeetepatrick

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 04:54 PM

But ..., for some reason it's the naked "flautist" that I can't get out of my mind. :unsure: Naked dancers are ho-hum (to me at least). But a naked flute player. That truly seems "gratuitous" -- and much more disorienting (which satire is supposed to be).
You'll have to Google "naked flutist" on your own to see a depiction of that.


Well, I sure can get it out of my mind, and that's why I'm not googling! :huh:

#113 innopac

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 11:58 PM

Here is Robert Helpmann's take on the topic.... :wallbash:

When asked "Would the fashion for nudity extend to the dance?"

Helpmann replied, "No. You see there are portions of the human anatomy which would keep swinging after the music had finished."

page 213 Helpmann by Elizabeth Salter



#114 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 01:52 AM

Graham said much the same thing.

#115 leonid17

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 06:57 AM

Here is Robert Helpmann's take on the topic.... :wallbash:

When asked "Would the fashion for nudity extend to the dance?"

Helpmann replied, "No. You see there are portions of the human anatomy which would keep swinging after the music had finished."

page 213 Helpmann by Elizabeth Salter



My memory may be serving me ill here, but I think the quote is not quite exact. I also think it arose at a performance of Dutch National Ballet because the bon mot was being repeated as we were leaving
the theatre where male nudity had just been exhibited.

#116 vagansmom

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 12:46 PM

Alexandra, that was either a very small theater or a VERY LARGE cockroach if everybody could see it! :wallbash:

#117 innopac

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 12:51 PM

My memory may be serving me ill here, but I think the quote is not quite exact. I also think it arose at a performance of Dutch National Ballet because the bon mot was being repeated as we were leaving
the theatre where male nudity had just been exhibited.

Leonid, did you know Helpmann? What do you think of the Salter biography?

#118 leonid17

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 02:49 PM

My memory may be serving me ill here, but I think the quote is not quite exact. I also think it arose at a performance of Dutch National Ballet because the bon mot was being repeated as we were leaving
the theatre where male nudity had just been exhibited.

Leonid, did you know Helpmann? What do you think of the Salter biography?


I am sorry to say I was never introduced to monstre sacre but saw him on stage on a number of occasions from 1962 to 1979 and at first nights of several productions that he had directed. I have the
Elizabeth Salter and I confess I never completed reading the book as I did not find this most interesting of men so interesting on the page. I had after all been regaled with the stories about him as a person,dancer actor and director for nearly two decades prior to its publication. I have to say I hold the performances I saw of him in great affectionas he was by the time I saw him a great historical theatre character of the London stage.

I would like to say that now that I am retired I have the time to read it, but I am busier more hours of the day now than when I was either working for myself or otherwise employed.

#119 Mel Johnson

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 05:14 PM

Here is Robert Helpmann's take on the topic.... :(

When asked "Would the fashion for nudity extend to the dance?"

Helpmann replied, "No. You see there are portions of the human anatomy which would keep swinging after the music had finished."

page 213 Helpmann by Elizabeth Salter



My memory may be serving me ill here, but I think the quote is not quite exact. I also think it arose at a performance of Dutch National Ballet because the bon mot was being repeated as we were leaving
the theatre where male nudity had just been exhibited.


I cannot help but be reminded of the anecdotal exchange:

OSCAR WILDE: I wish that I'd said that.

JAMES WHISTLER: Don't worry, Oscar, you will.

#120 papeetepatrick

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 05:39 PM

Here is Robert Helpmann's take on the topic.... :)

When asked "Would the fashion for nudity extend to the dance?"

Helpmann replied, "No. You see there are portions of the human anatomy which would keep swinging after the music had finished."

page 213 Helpmann by Elizabeth Salter



My memory may be serving me ill here, but I think the quote is not quite exact. I also think it arose at a performance of Dutch National Ballet because the bon mot was being repeated as we were leaving
the theatre where male nudity had just been exhibited.


I cannot help but be reminded of the anecdotal exchange:

OSCAR WILDE: I wish that I'd said that.

JAMES WHISTLER: Don't worry, Oscar, you will.


I'm not sure what you wish you'd said. When you were looking, there were two things I'd wish I'd said. Now there are three, but there's a hidden Firbankalism which I especially envy. :( , although I guess it's the David Bowie you're referring to. :), 'BonMots Keep Swingin'...


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