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"Ballet is like porn"quoting Tamara Rojo


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#1 atm711

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 06:52 AM

The aforementioned quote is by Tamara Rojo--in her role as director of the English National Ballet--she says "male dominated choreography shapes the way you look at things"    www.dailymail.co.uk -----(-with my limited internet expertise I cannot forward the article).....should make an interesting discussion......



#2 kfw

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 08:16 AM

Thanks, atm711. What an inapt comparison by way of making an interesting point. Is she saying that male choreography for women is essentially about sexual desire, as pornography is? I'm not sure that needs rebuttal. And would that apply to choreography by gay men? That makes no sense period.

The article is here, and she makes an assertion I haven't seen before:

 

Miss Rojo said that men often approach dance choreography in a ‘more physical’ way by starting with the steps, rather than women who often begin with the ‘emotional landscape’.


She told Time Out magazine: ‘Female sensitivity is different. And there are issues that I want to see on stage approached by women.

'Very often we see relationships approached from a male perspective.

[ . . . ] it shapes the way you look at things. It tends to be a more physical approach. Men start with the steps. I find women start with the emotional landscape.

‘They say, “This is the situation, let’s find a language for it”. With men, it tends to be, “this is the language”, and then you try to work out the situation through the steps.’


#3 Jayne

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 08:26 AM

all for PR and it's working.  Last time she used the term S-E-X to refer to her mixed bill that included Petite Mort.  I'll give her credit for piquing the media's attention and getting her all kinds of free PR.  Wayne Eagling certainly wasn't doing it!



#4 dirac

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 09:42 AM

Thanks for posting, atm711. In context what Rojo is saying is that historically ballet has been dominated by the vision of male choreographers as most pornography has been created by men for men. And as with pornography, this isn't only about sex; it's about power. Women wield power as performers, but in roles and landscapes that are mostly not of their making, driven by male power and male fantasy (in ballet, gay or straight). I would quibble with the way Rojo herself flirts with stereotyping (women are more emotional, men just want to cut to the chase), but her central point is a fair one, and I'm not going to argue with what she says she sees in the rehearsal studio.

 

As Jayne says, this may also be related to Rojo's choice of titillation as a marketing device. From what I read of the mixed bill I gather the results were....mixed.



#5 Amy Reusch

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 10:20 AM

Didn't Balanchine say something similar?  Or was it someone else?  I'm remembering some discussion of the ballet at the time of the revolution... 

 

hmmm... here it is in Taper's Balanchine  biography, p.51... but it's not Balanchine, who says it.. but a dancer answering Fokine's questionaire about the definition of ballet... 

http://books.google....ography&f=false
 

"Pornography, pure and simple" 

 

 



#6 kfw

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 10:30 AM

Men have dominated many fields and catered their own gender in so doing, but that doesn’t make that domination pornographic. The use or even abuse of power alone isn’t enough to make something pornographic - the erotic element is needed for that. Balanchine, for one, may have created ballets that were to one degree or another erotic, but I’ve never heard anyone say they go see his ballets to be turned on. Those works aren’t primarily erotic; their primary function isn’t to stimulate desire. Balanchine also made Serenade and Symphony in C and on and on, and even Agon and the like were very much to the taste of women, whom I understand are – or at least used to be - generally repelled, not stimulated, by pornography of the kind driven by power trips. Perhaps Rojo was trying to titillate. Anyhow, the metaphor is in my opinion tasteless and greatly overblown.



#7 pherank

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 12:01 PM

 

Thanks, atm711. What an inapt comparison by way of making an interesting point. Is she saying that male choreography for women is essentially about sexual desire, as pornography is? I'm not sure that needs rebuttal. And would that apply to choreography by gay men? That makes no sense period.

The article is here, and she makes an assertion I haven't seen before:

 

Miss Rojo said that men often approach dance choreography in a ‘more physical’ way by starting with the steps, rather than women who often begin with the ‘emotional landscape’.


She told Time Out magazine: ‘Female sensitivity is different. And there are issues that I want to see on stage approached by women.

'Very often we see relationships approached from a male perspective.

[ . . . ] it shapes the way you look at things. It tends to be a more physical approach. Men start with the steps. I find women start with the emotional landscape.

‘They say, “This is the situation, let’s find a language for it”. With men, it tends to be, “this is the language”, and then you try to work out the situation through the steps.’

 

 

I agree - the comparison doesn't really work well. What I found curious, and more interesting, was her talk about how male choreographers work VS female choreographers. Which is just interesting, but it doesn't preclude one or the other, and doesn't make one approach superior. I guess she would be more comfortable with the "this is the situation, let's find a language for it" approach. In reality, each choreographer will be a bit different from the others, especially given the fact that there is no agreed upon method, no formula, for creating choreography that will just work for all artists.

 

all for PR and it's working.  Last time she used the term S-E-X to refer to her mixed bill that included Petite Mort.  I'll give her credit for piquing the media's attention and getting her all kinds of free PR.  Wayne Eagling certainly wasn't doing it!

 

Agreed - I just see this has her obvious way of drawing attention to the company. It just happens to be kind of lame to have to resort to talking about "Porno". So much for art and any notions of 'nobility'.



#8 dirac

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 01:38 PM

Rojo’s intent may have been provocative, but I think her intent was serious, and she wasn’t invoking the comparison frivolously.

Here’s commentary – also to be found in the Links – from Judith Mackrell in The Guardian:

 

……Rojo's argument, if you read below the screech of headlines, is a serious one, directed at the differences between male and female choreographers and the reasons why so few of the latter are working in ballet. Yet with one effortless flick of a porn reference, she's spun this rather specialist issue right into the middle of the media's attention.

 

 

What I found curious, and more interesting, was her talk about how male choreographers work VS female choreographers. Which is just interesting, but it doesn't preclude one or the other, and doesn't make one approach superior.

 

 

Without discounting Rojo’s observations, pherank, I’d not put too much stock in the generalization. As Mackrell observes, the sample size for female choreographers is still quite small and some, like Tharp, take a very different approach. It’s possible also that Rojo’s conclusions are colored by expectations.

 

Amy, I’m also reminded of the famous quote about Agon – as I remember it, "if the cops knew what was going on in here, they’d shut the place down." In Bugaku, particularly, Balanchine’s intent is remarkably explicit – I think Robert Garis compared the imagery to that in Japanese pornographic prints.

 

(We should probably also note that when we speak of the lack of female choreographers, it's mainly ballet we're talking about - Tharp came from the world of contemporary dance, which has historically produced many women as makers of dances and leaders of companies.)



#9 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 02:28 PM

I wouldn't say that the Daily Mail is the sharpest knife in the drawer - in fact it is a paper I would not be seen dead reading in public; come to that, I don't read it in private either. They have a way of twisting things into something quite different, rather poor journalism. Always beware of a newspaper that has a busty blonde on page three! yucky.gif  But I feel sympathy with Rojo's argument - still in this day and age it is much more difficult to achieve something as a woman.



#10 sandik

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 03:13 PM

Thanks for posting, atm711. In context what Rojo is saying is that historically ballet has been dominated by the vision of male choreographers as most pornography has been created by men for men. And as with pornography, this isn't only about sex; it's about power. Women wield power as performers, but in roles and landscapes that are mostly not of their making, driven by male power and male fantasy (in ballet, gay or straight).

 

I think that Rojo's statement was made at least partially to garner attention, but I agree that there are several very interesting elements here.  Pornography is indeed partially about male power and the male gaze (to borrow a term from the analysts).  In the romantic era, the combination of changing dance technique (especially the image created by the new pointe work), institutional developments in theaters and schools, and literary and aesthetic sources used in choreography; all within that cultural context; created an intensely male-controlled art form.  Yes, some artists like Taglioni had significant independence as what today we would call "independent contractors," but they are in many ways the exception that proves the rule.



#11 pherank

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Posted 18 July 2013 - 03:32 PM

"Very often we see relationships approached from a male perspective."
"She added that the lack of female choreographers is partially down to women taking breaks to have children and that they are ‘not aggressive in self-promotion’."

 

If only what Rojo said was half as interesting as some of the implications that people seem to be finding. I can't actually find an explicit 'argument' in Rojo's statements. She makes an observation, yes, and I think a valid one. It's obvious to me that males are going to be creating any art from a male perspective (although I would add, an 'individual' persepective as well). Even if it is a male trying to truly understand what it might be like for a female, he isn't experiencing anything as a female, so there you go.

 

RE: ballet choreography being weighted towards men - What do people propose to change, and how, and what will be the presumed benefits? That would be interesting to know.



#12 dirac

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 07:22 AM

I think the proposed change is to bring in more female choreographers and the presumed benefit would be to ballet and to its audience. No one is saying there's anything wrong with the individual perspective as colored (or not) by sex. Balanchine presented a gallery of female portraits with few parallels in any art form. Rojo is suggesting that when the perspective is coming mainly from only one-half of humanity, it can get a little skewed. And as sandik points out, these issues are as much institutional as personal.



#13 kfw

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 08:22 AM

No one is saying there's anything wrong with the individual perspective as colored (or not) by sex. Balanchine presented a gallery of female portraits with few parallels in any art form. Rojo is suggesting that when the perspective is coming mainly from only one-half of humanity, it can get a little skewed.

 

True, but in pornography the perspective is skewed because women are used and abused. Not so in ballet. The male perspective of women in porn is pernicious. Not so in ballet. Granted, as you say, Rojo isn’t really saying that male choreography has an unfortunate view of women, but that makes her choice of comparison a poor one.



#14 dirac

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 11:08 AM

Not so in ballet.

 

 

Rojo's point was that the lack of female voices does make a difference, hence the need for change.



#15 sandik

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 11:51 AM

And the scarcity of female choreographers in ballet has been a topic of conversation recently, especially in the British press.




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