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Tom47

Male Beauty in Dance:

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I am in part a product of the time and place where I have lived. In that I mean my likes and dislikes have been influenced by the experiences of my life in particular in regard to norms and values, likes and dislikes. I know that my likes and dislikes are basically subconscious in that I don't consciously decide to like something or dislike it. However, I feel that my conscious thoughts and my actions could alter my subconscious likes and dislikes, although that takes time and "practice." I have some difficulty with the idea of male beauty, not so much because of the way I was born, but more because of what I have explicitly or implicitly learned by observing people, by reading and by what I heard. As a result many times when I feel a man is beautiful there seems to be something that tells me that is wrong and that this something that tells me that is wrong diminishes my experience of beauty. What is odd to me is that I am more likely to perceive the male body to be beautiful as opposed to the male face. Maybe the face is too personal. Also, I am more picky in regard to seeing males as beautiful as compared to females.

Tom

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As some may have guessed I am interested in the idea of switched gender roles. Does anyone know of good examples in ballet or dance where women choreographers or directors were in change of and taught beautiful young male dancers? Would Martha Graham be an example?

Tom,

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In starting this topic I mentioned the short ballet "Le Spectre de la Rose" as an example of what I see as male beauty. Here are three others: The Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty; The pas de trios from the second act of Le Corsaire and the final wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote.

Over the years as I have become more and more interested in Male Beauty, I have also become more and more interested in the lives of women, both in fiction and historical works. This is true in regard to my reading and the movies I see. My increased interest in Male Beauty has not been associated with any decrease in my interest in Female Beauty, but I have found myself to be less and less interested in the lives of men. In a way my interest in Female Beauty has expanded beyond what many may see as the typical Female Beauty.

Tom,

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I find the short ballet "Le Spectre de la Rose" to be interesting. While it highlights the male dancer, in a way that I see as being beautiful, it is in reality all about the young woman as the Spectre is not a separate entity, but is her feelings - her happiness and joy over the rose, but even more so her pleasurable remembrance of the dance she just returned from.

Tom,

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For me, beautiful male dancing has been embodied in the elegiac solos Nureyev put into his 'Swan Lake' and 'Sleeping Beauty'...not a bravura turn anywhere---just beautiful lyrical male dancing......

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For me, Cory Stearns, as he has come into his own this season, and Roberto Bolle radiate beauty of the male form. When either of them is onstage, I can't take my eyes off them.

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ATM711, thank you for your contribution to this topic, I have a copy of Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn in "Swan Lake." Next time I watch it I will pay particular attention to Nureyev's lyrical dancing.

Angelica, I also thank you for your contribution. I looked up both Cory Stearns and Roberto Bolle.

Tom,

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Actually Tom, it is not the Nureyev/Fonteyn SL--it is the one he did for the Paris Opera, I believe in 1984. There is a very good recording out by POB with Letestu and Jose Martinez. The variation is at the end of Act 1 with the Prince in a pensive mood about to go hunting......

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AMT711, sorry I thought you meant a ballet that Nureyev danced in. In reviewing the Nureyev and Fonteyn Swan Lake I did feel that Nureyev's dancing at the end of Act 1 was poignant and sensitive. I also found a youtube video of Jose Martinez dancing in Swan Lake at what appears to be the end of Act 1. It appears to be as you described it. To me beauty can come in many forms, which would include the performances mention above as well as "Le Spectre de la Rose."

Tom,

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As shown by this topic I am interested in male beauty, but that is not all. I am also interested in stories where women or girls are the most important characters and where women or girls are active and assertive. Thinking about this I came up with an alteration to the ballet "Le Corsaire." In this altered version, Conrad is captured by Seyd Pacha, which happens in Lord Byron's original poem and Medora, Gulnare and Ali (Conrad's slave) sail off to rescue him. On the way Medora, Gulnare and Ali have certain adventures. Actually in the poem Gulnare is a more active and important figure than in the ballet and she does rescue Conrad, while Medora could be considered to be a Corsair. The current ballet does not adhere very much to the poem and the alterations that I propose is as much in line with the poem and maybe more so than the current ballet. I foresee the music being much the same with the pas de trios, often danced by Ali, Conrad and Medora, being danced by Gulnare, Ali and Medora when they agree to set sail to rescue the pirate leader. I would change the title to "La Corsaire." My understanding of the ballet comes mainly from two copies I have, the 1989 Kirov Ballet production and the 1999 American Ballet Theatre production.

Tom,

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There is some tension in a lot of nineteenth-century ballets - and in some later ones - between the agency women have in the story and the agency they have in the choreography. Medora has plenty of the latter (perhaps even more in the Burlaka-Ratmansky Corsaire 'reconstruction' which the Bolshoi dances than in the productions you mention).

I wasn't sure how serious you were being re Corsaire, but though I am not a purist, I would just as soon choreographers who wanted to tell women's stories create their own ballets and their own stories rather than radically mess with nineteenth-century ballets. And some have.

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Drew, I am serious about what I wrote in the sense that if someone redid this ballet in something like what I suggested I would see it and I feel I would enjoy it. If I understand you I agree that Medora and other women in the ballet have a lot of opportunity to dance although in the story of the ballet they are rather passive. Things happen to them. I am not suggesting that "Le Corsaire" be replaced by "La Corsaire," but as I wrote I would enjoy "La Corsaire." Doing new ballets would be good also. I'm easy.

Tom,

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To All, this is a little more detail for "La Corsaire" (see above). The ballet would start with Conrad fighting the forces of Seyd Pacha. The pirate is overwhelmed and captured, but not before he unlocks the door to the harem. With this door unlocked Gulnare is able to escape and sails to the Corsair's hideout. That Gulnare is an able sailor is in keeping with the history of her name. At the hideout Gulnare meets up with Medora, who is Conrad's lover and Ali. They resolve to rescue the pirate king and the pas de trios represents their promise to do so. On their journey they meet up with Lankendem who tries to take them as slaves (it is here that the Grand pas de Trois des Odalisques could be preformed), but they defeat him and free the slaves he has These slaves join with the rescuers and they continue to the Pacha's palace. At the place they rescue Conrad and then Gulnare tries to stab Seyd Pacha while he sleeps. However, Conrad stops her as he feels it is wrong to kill a man who cannot defend himself. During this Seyd Pacha awakes and summons his guards and there is a fight. As a result of this the Pacha's forces are defeated and his harem is freed. La Jardin Anime is then danced as a celebration of freedom. After this Medora, Gulnare, Ali and Conrad sail off to new adventures.

To be clear I do not have an issue with ballet in regard to women having less important and interesting roles, but I do have a problem with that in movies. I look for movies with strong and important female characters, but since this is a ballet forum I wrote about my idea for a ballet.

Tom,

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Two little words came to mind when I saw this topic: Vladimir Malakhov. Long & lean, yet powerful. Truly beautiful feet and (to me) face. David Hallberg is/was also high on my list. (I miss him very much.) Eric Bruhn, too, "back in the day."

Beauty in technique is also important; thinking of a certain stocky, overly-muscular star of our age...but at what point does over-musculature "kill" beauty of line?

To answer your question, Tom, male beauty in ballet certainly matters as ballet-lovers analyze the art and decide the casts to see. Thanks for reminding us that it's not just about the ladies.

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Natalia thank you for your contribution to this topic. I've seen Vladimir Malakhov dance (on recordings) the role of Lankendem in an ABT "Le Corsaire" and as the Spectre of the Rose, both as you describe - long and lean yet powerful, I haven't noticed his feet much. As to at what point does "over-musculature kill" beauty of line I think that is for each person to decide for themselves. I do feel that ballet is more likely to present male beauty more than most other parts of our culture and that ballet presents female characters as being more important to the story as compared to what movies do. I look, in general, for cases of male beauty and of women being shown as being important. This is one reason I like ballet.

Tom,

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Here is a quote from a website I found that deals with pictures of male ballet dancers:

 

“Male ballet dancers are manly as ****.  Just because they're in tights, doesn't mean they're feminine. This blog was created because of the prejudice I've (as a female dancer) witnessed towards male dancers, mostly from straight men/women arguing that dance makes dudes lose their masculinity. I disagree. Dance requires a level of athleticism higher than most other sports, and there is nothing 'weak' or 'flimsy' about someone literally soaring through the air with all their muscles bulging . . .

 

Tom,

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3 hours ago, Tom47 said:

Here is a quote from a website I found that deals with pictures of male ballet dancers:

 

“Male ballet dancers are manly as ****.  Just because they're in tights, doesn't mean they're feminine. This blog was created because of the prejudice I've (as a female dancer) witnessed towards male dancers, mostly from straight men/women arguing that dance makes dudes lose their masculinity. I disagree. Dance requires a level of athleticism higher than most other sports, and there is nothing 'weak' or 'flimsy' about someone literally soaring through the air with all their muscles bulging . . .

 

Tom,

 

Absolutely. I talked about Marcelo Gomes before as one example, and I like to follow his Instagram where he sometimes posts videos of himself working out in a gym. Anyone who thinks male ballet dancers lose their masculinity should attempt to do half as much as he does in this video, with the same level of strength, control and good form:

 

 

And, plenty of people (who are considered to be in good shape and who are 10 years younger) would wind up in tears after doing (or trying to do) this many reps:

 

 

Of course, maintaining masculinity should not be judged (in my opinion) by brute strength alone. But, Gomes could do this exercise in a pink tutu and tights and would still be masculine to me. I think some people just don't realize how much strength male dancers need to continually hoist ballerinas around, and make it look effortless. 

Edited by ABT Fan

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      What is most interesting to me about the quote I posted above is the sentence “Just because they're in tights [male dancers], doesn't mean they're feminine.”  Now why would tights make a man feminine?  Why would tights be considered more a garment for women then for men?  After all tights could be seen as a form of pants and at one time pants were considered exclusively a male garment.  Well my thinking goes like this.  In the culture I live in (primarily early 21st century USA) there seems to me to be a discomfort with men showing not only the lower part of their body (between just below their waist and their knees), but also showing the outline of that part of their body, while there is little or no such discomfort with women showing the outline of that same portion of their bodies.  It also seems to me that there is a stereotype that the only people who would want to see the outline of the lower part of the male body are homosexual men and that no one else would want to see that.  I don’t believe that discomfort with seeing the outline of the lower part of the male body is something that is natural to humans, but instead is an outcome of our culture.  What do people think?

 

      Tom,

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Tom - If this was still the 17 or 18th century, I imagine no one would have a problem with men wearing tights, at least on their lower legs, as that was the fashion of the day. Anytime you have one gender (especially women) that predominantly wears one type of garment that the other for the most part does not (at least not out in society), it's most likely going to be viewed as not acceptable for the other to wear it, and yet if they do they'll be considered "feminine" as in your example.  A hundred plus years ago, the same would have been said if a man chose to wear a corset, even if he wanted a little help in the middle area.

 

This picture below is from the mini-series John Adams (I hope I'm allowed to post this):

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472027/mediaviewer/rm765826560

MV5BMTY1OTAwMDU4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDExNjA2MQ@@._V1_.jpg

 

 

Regarding your comment/question about showing a man's lower body outline, I see it as identical to the conundrum of full-frontal female nudity vs. full-frontal male nudity. We as a society have become so accustomed to the sexualization of women, that seeing women fully nude on TV and in movies is more and more common and "normal". But, rarely do we see men in the same way (at least I do not with what I watch ;). Games of Thrones is a good example. But, I also agree with you that there is a discomfort, generally speaking, with viewing men that way. So, I think there is more than one issue here. 

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      ABT Fan, again thank you for your comment, particularly your statement “. . . as that was the fashion of the day.”  Even in my lifetime I have seen changes.  I was born in 1947 and growing up I wore tight short bathing suits and I was not alone in that.  During the late 60’s and the 70’s I wore short cut off jeans, as short as women wore, but it seems that during the 1970’s men began to wear longer and baggier bathing suits and shorts, until I had trouble even finding tight short bathing suits.  It seems to me that men became more uncomfortable with the lower part of their bodies.  What do others think?

      To all, as a man I like seeing male ballet dancers in tights as it shows me that the male body is not ugly just because it is male.  I also like that these men look comfortable with their bodies and I look for such pictures and videos on the internet, which is how I found the site that I quoted from earlier.  It seems to me that the presentation of males in ballet, in regard to their dress and actions, is much different than the male stereotypes as they are generally presented in our culture (at least in the United States).  This is not only in regard to tights, but also in regard to the colors and forms of other male dress and in regard to men’s showing of expression.  To me this makes ballet unconventional and I like that.  What do others think?

      Tom,

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      I found the following quote at a website that hopefully can be found here: http://www.russianballethistory.com/nijinskythelegend.htm.

      “Then [after 1909], Nijinsky went back to the Mariinsky Theatre, but was dismissed for appearing on-stage during a performance as Albrecht in Giselle wearing tights without the modesty trunks, obligatory for male dancers in the company. The Dowager Empress, Maria Feodorovna, complained that his appearance was obscene, and he was dismissed. It is probable that the scandal was arranged by Diaghilev, in order that Nijinsky could be free to appear with his company in the west, where many of his projects now centered around him.”

      I wonder about the history of men wearing tights without any modesty covering over their mid-section.  It just seems to me so counter to the general practice in the current culture.  Could this be the start of that practice?

      ABT Fan I realize I neglected to comment on your statement regarding the showing of man’s lower body outline being “. . . identical to the conundrum of full-frontal female nudity vs. full-frontal male nudity.”   First I never saw “Games of Thrones.”  Second, I wanted to be careful in answering as I see this topic as being about male beauty and not necessarily being about nudity, but nudity is part of the issue when talking about visual beauty of the human form.  I did find a clip from the Late Show with James Corden (April 2016) where he interviewed Emila Clarke, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacohson.  I guess Emila plays one of the characters on Game of Thrones.  Corden asked Emila “how she feels about the levels of nudity on the show. . .”  Her answer was “Well, I mean I feel some things about it” and then added “so I feel like there’s a little bit of inequality between the amount of nudity that happens with women, this woman in particular, and that happens with the other guys.”  The host indicated that he felt a certain part of the male body is “. . . so disgusting” and Abbi Jacobson said “you guys need to come terms with your own body image.”  I feel that statement fits with the idea that there is prejudice regarding men wearing tights, as well as with the idea of male beauty in ballet since of all live performance arts ballet is probably the one that most consistently show the form of the male body. 

      Tom,

Edited by Tom47

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