Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Farrell Fan

Are you scandalized by a ballerina's bare legs?

Recommended Posts

Reviewing three different ABT Manons in today's NY Times, Gia Kourlas writes of Diana Vishneva, "If only she had worn tights! Bare legs don't befit a ballerina."

Do you agree with this dictum? How can you tell the difference?

Share this post


Link to post

Good heavens, no!

I don't think bare legs necessarily fit most ballets, as the look can be quite different, but for the more athletic/bravura pieces, I like the look--the muscle structure is much more visible.

Share this post


Link to post

I would usually prefer to see a ballerina in tights, since they smooth out her line, but I think Vishneva's choice not to wear them fits the role. It would be odd to wear tights in Ashton's Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan, or other barefoot ballets, and grotesque not to wear them with a classical tutu. Simply a matter of taste. Obviously this detail was so jarring to Kourlas thta she had to mention it in her review, but for many of us it magnifies a minor incident out of proportion. The perfect thing to discuss in an online forum and an odd thing to read about in the New York Times.

Share this post


Link to post

I think bare legs are out of place in "Manon" because it's part of the costume (Manon would not have been bare legged, even in the bedroom, even in jail) and also because it's a classical ballet (no time for hair-splitting here, non-MacMillan fans :) ) and tights are part of the costume. I agree wiith beck hen that it would be inappropriate to wear tights in Five Brahms Waltzes -- or in many contemporary dance pieces -- and for the same reason: not part of the costume, not part of the style.

I'm interested to read that people were surprised that Kourlas mentioned this. As a critic, I would have, if only to note what may be the beginning of a trend, and to let those who were new to classical ballet know that not wearing tights was an oddity. I would have wanted to know that when I was new to ballet. Otherwise, I might wonder why other ballerinas DID wear tights :) This is something that young dancers and ballet students would pick up on immediately.

A related issue is the fashion of wearing tights that cut off at the ankles, leaving the feet bare (in toe shoes). This has been going on for some time now, enough time that it looks "normal" but it was an issue when it started -- should you wear these tights in Peter Martins' ballets, but not in Balanchine's? When does something like this stop being specificially related to one style of ballet and become applied to every style?

Share this post


Link to post

Ironically, the last comment on bare legs on Ballet Talk before this post was on Thomas Lund's, pictured in Napoli in the cover photo of the Spring 2006 issue of Ballet Review.

Share this post


Link to post

I missed that one, Helene. Of course, in 1842, Gennaro wore shorts over tights, and the shorts were quite a bit baggier. (That's an issue among the young, by the way. When I showed "Napoli" to students last year they giggled at the "girlish" shorts Gennaro was wearing -- too tight. Boys wear baggy shorts now. So maybe they should dig up the original Gennaro costume.)

Share this post


Link to post

What I found odd was that there was no mention of Ferri and Bocca's performances.

I was incredibly privileged to see Julie Kent dance Manon last week. I thought she was incredible in the role... and she wore light colored tights

As far as bare legs... would this have been in the last act? If so, I suppose it was an attempt to draw a connection between prostitutues and nudity. Could this have been the calculus? Would this have been Vishneva's decision?

BTW I liked the review, but wished she had gone into more detail... but it was the NYT... can you expect more?

Share this post


Link to post
A related issue is the fashion of wearing tights that cut off at the ankles, leaving the feet bare (in toe shoes). This has been going on for some time now, enough time that it looks "normal" but it was an issue when it started -- should you wear these tights in Peter Martins' ballets, but not in Balanchine's? When does something like this stop being specificially related to one style of ballet and become applied to every style?

I mostly see this in casual ballet classes, as it makes it easier to adjust toepads, &c, if you don't have to bother with tights over your feet. Why it made its way into costuming I will never understand, as it is a supremely unflattering look, IMO.

As far as bare legs... would this have been in the last act? If so, I suppose it was an attempt to draw a connection between prostitutues and nudity. Could this have been the calculus? Would this have been Vishneva's decision?

Whatever the artistic reason, a secondary reason was probably that bare legs are more comfortable.

Share this post


Link to post

the TIMES round-up MANONs rev. was to follow up on the opening ferri/bocca perf. reviewed previously in the paper, in Rockwell's 'critic's notebook' about MANON. this ran on wednesday, if memory serves.

Share this post


Link to post

Personally, I prefer to see tights on a ballerina even if they are flesh tone tights. I've mentioned before on another thread a while back how much I hate! :) to see the tights cut off at the ankle then a pointe shoe on a bare foot. I remember starting to see this look on Heather Watts in Peter Martins ballets in the 80's. Unfortunately it seems to be a trend from that time period that stuck, unlike overpermed big hair and shoulder pads!

Share this post


Link to post

Diana's choice to not wear tights as a prisoner was a dramatic masterstroke. From the ballet's opening scene, when we saw the cartload of dehumanized prostitutes, the ballet is played against the background of that society's dehumanization of women. The story of the main character, Manon, on the other hand, is of a pretty 16-year old girl who begins as an amoral cipher, a pure object, and grows her humanity to an archetypal height. Finally, in the most degrading environment possible, stripped of everything, she adds even that final degradation for a balerina. Her humanity achieves its epiphany, amorality transcended by love. That love was worth breaking all the rules of that society and of classical ballet. Brava Diana Vishneva!

Share this post


Link to post

I can see why Manon wouldn't wear tights in the last act. After all, she is an exiled prostitute. What I don't get, however, is why Daphnis doesn't wear tights nowadays (in the RB Daphnis/Chloe revival).

Share this post


Link to post

drb

That is an interesting explanation about DV's bare legs... and how she may have used it as a metaphor both within the story and within the genre of ballet... as Manon is obvious a somewhat "revolutionary" " ballet". If she did.. brava for that.

How much control over costume do dancers have? Since the other Manons wore tights... it seems to have been her decision... no?

Share this post


Link to post

um, assume your 'no tights' regarding DAPHNIS AND CHLOE refers to chloe?

i suppose daphnis doesn't wear tights under his trousers, but we'd not necessarily know.

i'm sure fonteyn's chloe wore tights and i wish all those in the role also would.

ditto any number of related roles.

i'd point to both guillem and asylmuratova for the 'no tights' preference in any number of roles: nikiya, etc.

big name leading dancers can often do as they like, costume designers or artistic directors be damned.

Share this post


Link to post

Of the many many Manons I've seen in the past 5 years at the ROH, Guillem was the only one not to wear tights.

I too am perplexed about Chloe. In fact, when Daphnis and Chloe was on a few years ago Clement Crisp also bemoaned the lack of tights.

It doesn't bother me at the end of Manon - and when it's Guillem she seems to be very very careful about matching tones, etc. I'm looking at the poster of her in this right now and it appears that her pointe shoes and elastics (no ribbons) have been pancaked to match, then dirtied up for the whole jail/swamp effect?

In class, I'm one of the no-tights in shoes brigade I'm afraid (Hans! Close your eyes!) :) Have typically been like that with ballet flats, but it's a recent (as in past few years) with pointe - started because I wanted to toughen up my sensitive feet a bit... but I agree about on stage what it does for line...

Share this post


Link to post

Oh, Ami1436, I understand about practical reasons for wearing tights that way in class. :) I usually roll my tights up to just below my calves or knees, anyway.

Share this post


Link to post

Except in distinctly muscularized choreography, I hate, HATE, HATE the look of tightless legs with pointe shoes. Several Diamond Project (version 2006) ballets appeared tightless. I was wondering if Slice to Sharp was actually bare legged, or if the ladies were wearing pantyhose, as the legs had a sort of bare-but-not look, a subtle, slightly dark sheen. What does it say about costuming choices when the audience is sitting there wondering, "Tights? Panty hose? Nada?" ???? You'd think a choreographer would want the eyes (and mind) focused on other matters.

As for colored, ankle-length tights, I think the look is unflattering unless the wearer is built like Maria Kowroski or Tess Reichlen. Even in the leggier companies, those bodies are extremely rare.

Share this post


Link to post
Gia Kourlas writes of Diana Vishneva, "If only she had worn tights! Bare legs don't befit a ballerina."

Do you agree with this dictum? How can you tell the difference?

In this case I reluctantly have to agree with Kourlas. I watched Vishneva'a Manon very closely through my opera glasses. In the last bare-legged scene I noticed a large smudge on her left upper outer thigh--it was a bit larger than a golf-ball. I didn't know if it was a tattoo or a bruise---I refrained from mentioning this in my comments about her performance :)

Share this post


Link to post

I recall last weeke when we saw Manon, that Julie Kent, wore tights which appeared soiled... could be wrong, but I thought this was part of the costuming... Perhaps Vishneva's legs were meant to look bruised as in an abused prisoner? ... a litte ballet verite perhaps???

Share this post


Link to post
I recall last weeke when we saw Manon, that Julie Kent, wore tights which appeared soiled... could be wrong, but I thought this was part of the costuming... Perhaps Vishneva's legs were meant to look bruised as in an abused prisoner? ... a litte ballet verite perhaps???

Yes, one would surely be able to show abuse with makeup on the legs more believably than by painting it on tights, where a skinned knee might slide or wrinkle into something not as real. But not only is a bare leg a better vessel than tights to indicate rendered abuse, the violation of not wearing tights is, per se, one more, final abuse. This all makes sense to me in a reading of the story in which des Grieux raises Manon from an amoral state rather than one where Manon degrades innocent des Grieux to her state of amorality (after all, he ends a muderer). But this is about Diana and Vladimir's presentation, which is one where he raises her to the level that her love defeats a vile society's drive to break women.

Share this post


Link to post

Altynai Asylmuratova was definitely a "no tights" kind of gal, as rg pointed out. She doesnt wear tights in Le Corsaire, Bayadere, and the Street Dancer in Don Quixote.

Share this post


Link to post
Altynai Asylmuratova was definitely a "no tights" kind of gal, as rg pointed out. She doesnt wear tights in Le Corsaire, Bayadere, and the Street Dancer in Don Quixote.

I have no problems with that however, what is the fuss about anyway? :)

Share this post


Link to post

Frankly, a ballerina works very hard to get her legs into such wonderful shape! And dramatically, DV's bare legs makes a statement of the reality of Manon's plummeting status. Nylons or the like were a luxury that most women could only dream about, in the 17th and 18th centuries! Even during World War 2, nylon stockings were a luxury, due to rationing. Bravo Diana, a true artist, and historian, to boot!!!!!!!!! From a male point of view, seeing legs that are toned like a ballerina's is OK with me!!! Heh, heh!!!! The picture of Ferri supported by Bocca (on ABT's nightly program), is an example of the beauty of a ballerina's finely sculpted leg!!!

Share this post


Link to post

I prefer bare legs to semi-sheer dark tights, like those in Western Symphony and many ballets costumed in the last couple of decades.

Share this post


Link to post

Well, let's not go overboard with historical accuracy. "Historically", I have yet to see a real swan in tights (or a tutu, for that matter), but I like my dancing swans in tights :) .

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...