Leigh Witchel

Tattoos and Piercings on Ballet Dancers?

Tattos and Piercings on Ballet Dancers:   108 members have voted

  1. 1. What's your opinion?

    • Love 'em!
      4
    • Hate 'em
      86
    • Couldn't care less.
      18

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132 posts in this topic

The topic got prompted by comments on the visible tattoos of dancers in the ABT City Center Season.

I'm also of an older mindset on this. A dancer I worked with in 1996 and again in 1999 showed up after that hiatus with a very colorful, very visible tattoo on his arm. I was so taken aback that even before I said hello, I burst out, "OH MY GOD YOU GOT A TATTOO. CAN THAT BE COVERED WITH MAKEUP?"

So body modifications - love 'em or hate 'em?

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Just guess how I voted!

Maybe "Hate 'em" is a mite too strong, but my choice was clear for reasons previously stated on the current ABT thread.

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I answered that I couldn't care less, because the fact is that whenever tattoos have been mentioned on this board, it's come as a surprise to me. I never notice them.

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I don't hate 'em if I can't see 'em on stage.

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...can't imagine Marie Taglioni with a tatoo...and there's always the risk of being visible, even with a good make up.... :dry:

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I don't hate 'em if I can't see 'em on stage.

I agree. If the choreographer said that a particular tatoo worked for a piece it would be ok. Other than that it's like altering a costume.

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Of course it depends on the tattoo. Today we see all sorts of them on all sorts of people. Body mods have been mainstreamed to a large extent. Most of the larger ones and more visible ones are not attractive to me and some are actually repulsive. That's a strong word, but some body mods are more than mildly unattractive or even very unattractive but can make me have a visceral negative reaction. I can recall being served breakfast in a diner once by a waitress covered in tatts and metal in her face. I lost my appetite, literally.

Some tatts are completely inoffensive and by themselves "pretty", usually when small and discrete. But the idea of doing that to your flesh seems odd to me, especially the permanent nature of them.

Sometimes I see what I think is an attractive person and then see their ink and think, why did they "ruin" themselves? Obviously, they think it an improvement and probably can't even imagine how someone would think the reverse?

There's a TV show called LA Ink and it's advertised on a huge billboard on the west side highway. The woman looks like she made herself into a carnival show "freak" and in a sense you can't see her without being assaulted by all her tattoos.

The more extreme the bod mods, the more I find them offensive. And even when they are small, discrete and "attractive" in themselves, they don't seem to add anything to the human body, they're more like putting a pretty postage stamp on human flesh that you can't get off.

But I'm with Helene, if I can't see them, then I don't care.

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Oh, if I can't see them, how do I even know they exist to be objected to? If I don't know they're there, it's a non-issue.

But more and more skin is being exposed these days. Women's midriffs are not a rare sight on the ballet stage, and I've often considered the likelihood that if I were a member of a ballet company, the scar running the full length of one side of my middle would (and should) immediately eliminate some ballets from my rep :crying: . And a scar is 1) skin-toned, therefore slightly more innocuous; and 2) in most cases :dry: involuntary.

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It depends on the ballet or dance, the tattoo itself, and the dancer. I don't want to see any tattoos on ballerinas, but some of the men in some of those ABT 'Swan Lakes' and 'Sleeping Beauty'(s) could perhaps improve the situation with tattoos since so much is gaudy already, and not of the most exquisite variety either-Cornejo, Gomes, and Corella might make good Desires and Siegfrieds with tattoos, and even the Hallberg might be able to do okay with some of them. I don't know if Peter Martins tattooed for 'Tzigane' might have added a dash of something ethnic to his partnering of Ms. Farrell, it might not have hurt. But since this is mostly about permanent tattoos, tattoos as part of the costuming itself is bound to evolve eventually if all this many guys have got them. Probably they should be camouflaged as much as possible until such time as they are used instead of garments, as I've seen in some performance artists like Karen Finley. I wouldn't like to see anybody in 'Jewels' with tattoos.

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...can't imagine Marie Taglioni with a tattoo...

I think that sums it up pretty well, cubanmiamiboy.

If I don't know they're there, it's a non-issue.

Quite so.

I don’t care for tattoos and don’t understand why people get them, unless you're one of those Russki gangsters on view in ‘Eastern Promises.’ (They looked great on Viggo, though.) On stage they’re less noticeable, but I still don't care to see them. I suppose in some modern works they wouldn’t look strange or out of place.

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I've often considered the likelihood that if I were a member of a ballet company, the scar running the full length of one side of my middle would (and should) immediately eliminate some ballets from my rep :dry: .

That seems extreme to me and almost like the purity demanded with monochromatic cygnets, white ballets, etc.. I can't really think of any ballerina whom I thought a great dancer being rightly eliminated from a ballet due to a scar like that, although it's a matter of personal preference of course; to some, it's going to seem sexist of me not to mind the occasional male tattoo (but not prefer it unless the production already seemed somewhat moribund or superficial) and never want to see a tattoo on a ballerina. A tattooed Coppelia--now that sounds hideous. And anything in 'The Nutcracker' too. That POB 'Caligula' with a tattoed hero doesn't sound too bad, though.

For myself personally, I've never even wanted a temporary one, much less any kind of piercing. Worst to me is cheek piercing, which borders on self-flagellation.

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If I were to find that my dancer was distractingly tattooed, it would be, "Come, my dear, time for you to learn the wonders of greasepaint and powder, and if that doesn't work, fishskin."

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Most of the larger ones and more visible ones are not attractive to me and some are actually repulsive.

I find most tattoos repulsive, especially the larger ones with yellow and green ink. I can understand the aesthetic in macho, working class guys, but otherwise on an aesthetic level I think they're in bad taste, and on a psychological level they seem to me on par with wearing a baseball cap backwards. There are ways to truly distinguish oneself.

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And then there's:

"Patty, do you have a chrysanthemum tattooed on your right lower cheek?"

"No, only a tiny little rosebud!"

"Uh-oh! You may want to look at that again sometime."

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Please, can we keep the ballet in its traditional ways...? If we start getting used to tatooed Giselles, what's next...? we might as well eliminate the tutus so we can start seeing hyperextended developes and athletc 6 pm arabesques in full display...Lovely! :dry:

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I voted "hate 'em," but have reconsidered. Can one take back a vote?

On stage, a tatoo is really a kind of costuming. If the costume is appropriate to the ballet, why not? Papeetepatrick, with his reference to Tzigane, has convinced me. On stage, discreet tattoos can call attention to something different about the character, suggesting something exotic and slightly dangerous. (Sadly, they no longer do this in real life. Most of the time nowadays they seem to be the badge of dullness, attention-seeking and/or conformity.)

For some reason my thoughts went to The Man She Must Marry in Lilac Garden. I always wonder: where did he come from? how did he make his money? why is she being forced to marry him? A small tatoo (on the hand, for instance) would make this figure even more mysterious and ominous. And why not Ali in Corsaire? Carabosse, Rothbart, or Katchei? The Queen and her followers in The Cage? One or two of the sailors in Fancy Free? And then there's Gamzatti (but not Nikiya) in Bayadere. Gamache (but not Basiliio) in Don Q. Abderakham (but not Jean de Brienne) in Raymonda. The Pearly King and Queen in Union Jack. Oberon, Puck or even Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream. The Strip Tease Girl in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.

:crying: Why not insert a drunken visit to a tattoo parlour into Prodigal Son, one more way-station on his road to degradation? :dry:

For most ballets, however -- for instance, Agon, with its strict black-and-white costume guidelines, or Liebeslieder Walzer, abstract ballets without characterizations, or the ballets blancs -- the dancers should be tatoo-free.

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:dry: Why not insert a drunken visit to a tattoo parlour into Prodigal Son,

:crying:

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On stage, a tatoo is really a kind of costuming. If the costume is appropriate to the ballet, why not?
Ah, yes, "IF." By all means, if . . . But why not a temporary, so that when the Second Sailor (wearing at t-shirt, so we can see it) dances Concerto Barocco the next night (also in short sleeves) he doesn't spoil the pristine look of the celestial slow movement?

An intermission group discussed that and other aspects of costuming. One woman complained that Paloma's earrings in Clear were at odds with her simple beige bra top and belled jazz pants, and shouldn't someone have prevented her from wearing them? Well, as far as I know, earrings are considered as much a part of the costuming as any other article, and whatever Paloma wore on her ears (and escaped my notice) was probably the choreographer's choice.

As a point of clarification, the ABT dancer's tattoo was approximately the size of the lid of take-out coffee, and there were several across the back, each only slightly smaller.

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Ah, yes, "IF." By all means, if . . . But why not a temporary, so that when the Second Sailor (wearing at t-shirt, so we can see it) dances Concerto Barocco the next night (also in short sleeves) he doesn't spoil the pristine look of the celestial slow movement?

I'm almost sure that's what Bart meant, as would I. A permanent tattoo is not costuming anyway, as it is a real-life tattoo thereafter even had it been made for 'Fancy Free'. This couldn't happen, and I definitely think temporary tattoos for 'Fancy Free' are an excellent idea--wouldn't even be surprised if they hadn't already been used. Ditto 'Slaughter on 10th Avenue' for the men, and some other things.

For the permanent tattoos you're talking about, I think they ought to be covered and camouflaged if they do not coincide with very specific kinds of tough guy characters of the kind bart and I are clearly talking about, although he's added some character roles I haven't had time to think about yet. I don't really like the idea of the Striptease Girl in 'Slaughter' having tattoos personally--because she needs to be a ballet-stripper, not a Coney Island or Bourbon Street stripper. Ali in 'Corsaire' a temporary tattoo--yes, if he could dance it at a Tattoo Level.

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Include me in the "hate 'em" in ballet crowd. I bought into the ethic that a dancer's body is a temple. And my feeling about tats is probably why I've never cottoned to Marcovici no matter how good he dances at times. I just can't get past that tear drop.

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Well, at least on Ballet Talk, there seems to be a rather strong vote against, with a few neutral.

Anyone out there love 'em or think they're hot on a ballet dancer?

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Well, at least on Ballet Talk, there seems to be a rather strong vote against, with a few neutral.

Anyone out there love 'em or think they're hot on a ballet dancer?

I never saw the Marcovici tear-drop, but will look for it next time. Where is it, please? I think it would look good on him and offer a nice dissonance to his prettiness of rococo style that reminds you of the Ile St. Louis, Carpeaux, and Canova, among other 18th century expressions. In the 80s, shortly after her Playboy spread, the 50s-era starlet and Howard Hughes-heiress Terry Moore, who was born with the world's best genes, had a $1000 diamond teardrop she wore under one eye. We thought that was 'de trop' at the time, but now look back on it with more tolerance. :dry: here she is at 74, sans teardrop, looks like she might hire Philip Marlowe for an investigation and change the story around a good bit later:

http://www.imdb.com/gallery/granitz/2456/E...,%20Terry%20(I)

Does she look lovelier with this simpler and more natural look?

Anyway, the answer is no, but I'd like to see Marcovici's anyway. If a diamond teardrop, why not a tattoo teardrop? It sounds like the dancers want to do this anyway, and that's where the buck stops thus far, it seems (at least on the tattoo question.)

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These are personal self expression thingies...right? So what about pink hair, or mohawks, or both? All these fall into the category of self expression and one often sees someone will all of the above, hair, tatts and piercings.

When one is involved in a performance, cast in a role, you are essentially a blank canvas to fit into, some rather preconceived "standard". It's pretty clear what that is for dancers, but there is certainly some room for variation. Performers are expected to add a certain je ne c'est quoi to their role, but a body mod I would thing are what is sought.

This crowd seems to find them a distraction and out of place in ballet. I wonder if any companies have any official policy about these things???

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When i was in the ballet school,among the first things they told us and our parents at the beginning of the first year was:"forget piercings,tatoos and don't change the colour of your hair!".Look is very important in ballet.I remember our teachers telling us even how to keep our hair.They told us we had to look like people from the 19th century.People of that period didn't have piercings,tatoos,colored-hair,spiky hair....so if we were undecided about changes in our look we just thought if a person from the past would have done that and decided consequently.The fact is: if you have to play Albrecht in Giselle,how can you have a modern look?then i have to say that at some auditions you are not taken if your apparel is not as they like.Tatoos are concerned.About girls i remember they were oblidged to keep long hair and perfectly combed in "chignon",without any single hair coming out.And then sober or without make up.This is just one of the things a dancer can't do in his life;-)

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