Naked or not?Nudity in ballet and other dance forms
Posted 19 August 2009 - 05:51 PM
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never try to take the credit.
We all assume that Oscar said it.
- Dorothy Parker.
I met both Sir Robert Helpmann and Sir Anton Dolin, and found that they were both entirely capable of taking the credit for almost anything said by anyone else, ever. Avoided the esprit d'escalier, I suppose.
Posted 16 August 2012 - 10:56 AM
What do you think? Is nudity always acceptable? Never? Occasionally? Have we seen any and how did we react?
There seems to be a wide range of very interesting comments here but to me they digress into addressing two related but separate questions – Under what conditions, if ever, is nudity acceptable in performance art? And/or: Under what conditions, if ever, is nudity acceptable in classical ballet?
As many others here (but clearly not all), I feel there are certainly conditions under which nudity is acceptable in performance art, perhaps even essential in certain cases. Art is generally supposed to be subversive and provoke thought and reactions. As we see in the comments here, nudity can certainly achieve this. Having said that, I believe nudity can't make bad art good but it can make good art bad.
I'm less certain, for some of the reasons already stated, about the acceptability of nudity in classical ballet, not because of the potential of offending any prudish sensibilities but rather conflicting with the goals and aesthetics of the art form itself.
As to whether I've seen any performances with nudity lately, a couple of years ago I attended a performance of Bocca Tango Maipo with Julio Bocca. The choreography was a fusion of ballet and tango with modern elements by Argentinean Ana María Stekelman who, perhaps not surprisingly, had studied at the Martha Graham School. One of the duets was performed with Cecilia Figaredo, both wearing only black thongs, with the stage lights dimmed. More sensual than erotic, I felt it was very effective in capturing the intensity, mystery, romance, and passion of tango. Advance notice had been given in advertising.
As far as exposing children, I was always far more comfortable explaining nudity and even sexual themes in a tasteful, artistic context than trying to explain the degree of violence they were often unavoidably exposed to from so many other directions.
The latest reportfrom the front, or rather the back, as it were, by Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times.
Posted 16 August 2012 - 11:31 AM
Posted 18 August 2012 - 11:10 PM
Posted 19 August 2012 - 04:12 AM
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 70s 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.
Posted 19 August 2012 - 07:13 PM
Posted 20 August 2012 - 09:18 PM
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?
Posted 21 August 2012 - 03:48 AM
"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.
Posted 21 August 2012 - 06:01 AM
Nothing, in my opinion, but physical attractiveness can momentarily distract me from the actual choreography.
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 NYCB Moves clip features bits of Symphony in 3 Movements and Duo Concertant danced barelegged, beginning at the 48 second mark.
Posted 21 August 2012 - 07:06 AM
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 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.
Posted 04 September 2012 - 08:01 AM
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