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Naked or not?


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Klingsor's post reminded me that many years ago I too saw The Royal Danes in The Triumph of Death.

At the performance I saw, Flemming Flindt the choreographer of the piece, also stripped off, which made the concept of nudity in the work more acceptable to me as he clearly wasn't expecting his dancers to do something he wasn't prepared to do himself.

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I was watching Romeo and Juliet today and thought about how the dancers might get dressed after the bedroom scene. Do we really want to watch Romeo "adjusting himself" as he puts his dancebelt back on, and are we prepared to sit through Juliet (once she has her tights on) fumbling with her various "ouch pouches," toe spacers, band-aids, tape, wadded-up paper towels, and ribbons as she prepares for an acrobatic pas de deux?

And if they're going to put on their clothes, why not have them put their stage makeup back on as well? Don't want to get foundation on Juliet's bed linens, after all. What, the sight of Romeo and Juliet applying their eyeliner and lipstick together isn't appealing? :)

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An exception might be if the dance or scene is in some sense "about" the state of being unclothed:  as possibly in Salome's dance.

I have seen Vivi Flindt dance naked in Salome, and I think that it was quite unnecessary and distracting and it took the focus from the dancing.

And nowadays most ballerinas really don´t have beautiful bodies (with the exception of Marguerite Empey :P ).

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I think the difference is that a marble sculpture isn't actually a person--it's just carved marble, and in sculpture, form is generally idealized.

Exactly. And all of David's body parts do exactly what Michelangelo had in mind. Whereas even the greatest dancer in the world doesn't have absolute control over...

It may say more about me than about dance, but when there is nudity on stage I find it hard to pay full attention to anything else.

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I have a slightly different take when it comes to nudity in media that don’t involve performers live. Although we do see far too much of it, especially where women are concerned (I turned off HBO’s “Rome” after two episodes, and the absurdly gratuitous nudity was one of the reasons), I think candor is preferable to some of the evasions we used to see and occasionally still do (e.g., an actress in bed with a sheet wrapped tightly around her torso, as if modesty forbade exposure in front of the husband/lover with whom she’s just spent a torrid night in bed, etc.).

There are still some examples of prudery about. Returning to HBO, since I’ve pulled the network in from left field, there were some very odd scenes in the old series “Sex and the City.” Because several of the actresses had objections to going topless, although not apparently to fairly graphic simulations of various sex acts, there were lots of scenes that involved heavy breathing activity in bed – with bras firmly in place no matter what. A friend of mine commented, “I guess men in New York don’t like breasts.” I thought more than once it would have been better simply to restage the scene, because it did look rather silly.

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There are still some examples of prudery about.  Returning to HBO, since I’ve pulled the network in from left field, there were some very odd scenes in the old series “Sex and the City.”  Because several of the actresses had objections to going topless, although not apparently to fairly graphic simulations of various sex acts, there were lots of scenes that involved heavy breathing activity in bed – with bras firmly in place no matter what.

Thanks for the laugh. But you know, a woman acting out a graphic sex scene is still acting, not showing us her true self. I'm going to guess that when you wrote "prudery" all you really meant was something like "old-fashioned reticence." :) It seems to me that a woman who chooses not to bare her body to strangers isn't a prude, but is simply doing what's right for her. Nowadays we're told to accept edgy depictions of sexuality without judgment. Modesty deserves the same respect.

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I see your point, but. :) I don't think it makes those performers willing to bare themselves under the appropriate circumstances "immodest" or exhibitionistic. My point, to clarify, was not that actors should feel obligated to strip, but that the scenes should be shot more plausibly if they're not willing to do that. ( In the case of SATC or any HBO series, that might present a problem, of course, since the unspoken promise of HBO series, even the quality ones with the Complex Narrative Structure and the Fine Writing, is "More sex! More violence! More nudity than the networks can show! That's the HBO guarantee!'' But I digress. )

As a Board Moderator, I rebuke myself for wandering so far afield.

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I completly agree that nudity is distracting in most cases. In my dance history class we watched two versions of Rite of Spring, and in one, nudity was used, and in the other there was no nudity that I saw. [snip] I think that nudity is more acceptable in modern dance and even in contemporary ballet, but not in classical or romantic ballet, I think that the men are already naked enough in the tights and shirt outfit things and that it may be taking things to far for that to be done.


Moderator's note: Portions including and referring to illegal video links were deleted.

Edited by carbro
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LA GIACONDA, Gran Teatre de Liceu (BARCELONA) 2005

How apropos this topic was as I was just thinking of asking what people thought of that Dance of the Hours? Now available on DVD. (Deborah Voigt as LG) It was contemporary in sets, but singers wore costumes that approximated the time period with some Comedia del 'Arte references. The Dance of the Hours all-female corps had flowing dresses, contemporary again. But the two principal dancers? A gold dusting of torsos for both Angel Corella and Leitizia Giuliani; him shirtless in cropped tights, she topless with some strategic body paint, and only a thong below.

My reaction(s):

1) First and foremost for me "what's the point?" ... There was an element of meeting/wooing/consummating in the choreography which may possibly explain the 'au natural' aspect, but it wasn't explicit (no pun intended). So then I thought, it's Europe, they don't care, everyone does it, so why not them too? But...WHAT is the point? HOW is it relevant to the action, the dance, the story?

2) "ouch,ouch,ouch" and "how unfair to her!--as usual, it's the female who provides the view. Poor Ms. Giuliani, despite the strength of her chest wall, would still have discomfort during and after the performance. And I did wonder if the gold dust/body paint made the partnering more difficult or not. Lots of rosin I assume to compensate? I also noticed that Mr. Corella was careful about where he placed his hands.

3)I should notify all world fitness gurus that all their routines and videos and exhorbitant fees will never provide them with the musculature, athleticism, and grace of Ms. Guiliani. Oh yeah, Mr. Corella's physique was not bad either. At least the second time I viewed the dvd, I managed to concentrate on technique and the fascinating play of what muscle was used during what step, and forget about the fact Ms. Giuliani was exposing more of both. Of course, technically, both dancers were superb.

The choreography was classical with embedded excerpts/references (intentional or not I do not know) to most of the classical rep (I saw lots of Swan Lake, Don Q, some Giselle, and of course Corsair etc.etc.). Christopher Wheeldon, who also used both dancers in his "Dance of the Hours" for the Met last year, commented that Ms. Giuliani was a 'good partner for Angel' with her 'bendy Italian thing' and I agree, physically and technically they were well matched. She did a beautiful penche, had a floating yet powerful jete to match his, and an extension and flexible back. Something else I subliminally felt rather than overtly observed was a VERY subtle, almost defiant attitude in Angel Corella's performance. A "so there" addressed to his audiance that changed into an almost ecstatic smile at the strength of the ovations after. I'm hoping, they, like myself, appreciated the dancing and dancers, rather than what they were wearing...or not.

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It seems that a choreographer who decides to use nudity on stage, or vulgarity, or decides to have a performer light up a joint on stage, is doing so to cover up for shallow artistic content. Edginess replaces artistic skill. He can’t figure out how to use the art form’s discipline to metaphorically express his point, so he goes over-the-top literally. I doubt there is ever a case where such a choreographer hasn’t relished the idea of shocking someone -- as if shocking someone is what art is all about. Hey, some people think it is.

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One practical drawback to nudity in ballet is dancing on pointe. Any artistic statement would be subverted by an otherwise naked woman wearing a pair of pointe shoes.

Not to be obtuse, but why?

Donatello's David (the first freestanding nude since antiquity) wears a hat and boots...

(people kept mentioning sculpture and I just taught this work today so...)

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Sometimes the distraction is the women's lack of "appendages". What looks great in a leotard or tutu doesn't always conform to our perception of an ideal nude. Most dancers these days aren't odalisques!

Why can't that (the lack of conformation to the "ideal nude"), be a point of interest instead of a distraction?

What is wrong in presenting various body types as attractive and interesting?

Why can't dance be at the forefront of this, and highlight the beauty that is inherent in various body types? I'm sorry GWTW, but that comment really struck a nerve.

Hey I don't expect to see overweight ballerinas anytime soon, I'm not being naive about what the public and community will allow, but to expect ballet dancers to be sticks, and then say basically "ick, I don't want to see that naked!" based on them not fitting the "norm" of physical beauty is just ludicrous.

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