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Do ballet dancers need calf implants? and other questions

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Today's NY Times has an interesting article on the effect of the 2009 recession on various kinds of cosmetic surgery (breast implants, buttock lifts, and liposuction are down; lip implants and upper-arm lifts are up).

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/fashion/...ouis&st=cse

I was thinking about this when I came upon those magnetic words ... "ballet dancers". When I came upon "calf augmentation", however, I did a double take.

A few obscure cosmetic operations increased in 2009, despite their not-insignificant cost. There was a slight uptick in calf augmentation, which entails using a silicone implant to enhance calves, up to 259, from 247. Surgically pumping up calves isn’t cheap — $3,649 on average — but apparently ballet dancers and bodybuilders find them worthwhile. “To be a success as a ballet dancer, it’s about as much your appearance as your ability to dance,” Dr. McGuire said. “You may have good muscle, but it doesn’t have shape and appearance that’s considered optimal.”

Is such a think possible? Maybe for Odile. But for Odette? As one of our Mods wrote in a private communication, you'd think that ballet dancers wouldn't need artificial assistance. I mean, there ARE such things as plies and releves.

What about calf implants -- or body-alteration in general -- for ballet dancers? Is something you think that dancers should undertake? Is it really needed, to quote Dr. McGuire, a "to be a success as a dancer."

*** If you post, please respect the rule: NAME NO NAMES. This is not the place to speculate on procedures that individual dancers may not or may not have undertaken or to pass on unofficial news. Only if a dancer has HERSELF OR HIMSELF admitted to having a procedure should a name be mentioned. Thanks in advance.

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In the 19th century, dancers ordered padded tights, specially made to make their calves look more seductively rounded. Much cheaper and more comfortable -- Danskin's, I hope you're reading this (and I want a cut).

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In the 18th century, when men's legs were exposed and women's weren't, a style came out which demanded a "well-turned leg", so much so that New York haberdashers advertised "pithen calves", made of the same stuff that the pith helmets are made of. Sort of falsies for the lower leg. Alexander Hamilton admired his own shapely stems so much he had a tendency to wear scarlet stockings, or ones made of black silk and metallic gold thread interwoven, so that he twinkled when he danced, or even just walked.

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Thanks for that information, Alexandra and Mel. However, after browsing through a few websistes devoted to this and similar surgeries, wearing pads under tights or stockings seems like the sissy's way out. Real men (and women) nowadays should be willing to take a few risks. Among the possible side-effects of this surgery are:

infection, bleeding, nerve and/or muscle damage, slippage and asymmetry.
Recovery time (back to "normal physical activity") is 4-6 weeks on average. What, however, is "normal physical activity" for a ballet dancer?

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I'm wondering how professional these ballet dancers wanting calf implants are... Doesn't proper training do enough to shape the leg? At least to the point where no one would want to add anything on? Insteps maybe, but calves?

And who are these ballet dancers taking 6 weeks off?

Could it be male dancers? I can't remember a professlonal female ballet dancer whose calves needed anything added on...pointe work does a lot for that... but perhaps male technique wouldn't shape the leg quite the same way?

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I think this is more a man's thing. Living on the beach had made me seen EVERYTHING in terms of implants and augmentations, but the few times I've seen fake calves it has been in guys-(one of them also having fake pecs, BTW...).

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At some point don't bulked up bodies begin to look like wearable sandwich boards, no longer appropriate for the face, or -- I won't say idealized -- an alien ideal, a marketer's dream, photoshopped onto themselves. It's like bound feet centuries back, a very abstract idea of beauty I think.

The other question is why do male ballet dancers doing classical ballets need to bulk up -- and do they lose a pliancy of line and grace of presentation when they do?

Body Image Dissatisfaction

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At some point don't bulked up bodies begin to look like wearable sandwich boards, no longer appropriate for the face, or -- I won't say idealized -- an alien ideal, a marketer's dream, photoshopped onto themselves. It's like bound feet centuries back, a very abstract idea of beauty I think.

The other question is why do male ballet dancers doing classical ballets need to bulk up -- and do they lose a pliancy of line and grace of presentation when they do?

Body Image Dissatisfaction

I like some procedures fine, good photoshopping on bodies is not so 'alien ideal' to all of us (it can definitely improve), but otoh I never thought about it in regard to ballet, nor knew that it was frequently done (although I should have, I think). The one dancer that sprang to mind was Vera-Ellen, who was the only dancer I even noticed with legs so thin I couldn't quit noticing even though I loved her dancing in the movies anyway. It's true that in that case, I found the thinness a little strange, and that that would have been a case in which implants would have improved the look if they were done properly and didn't interfere (I also don't know how long these have been done, surely not back in the 50s, though.)

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Thanks for the link, Quiggin. Men's body image problems remain miniscule in comparison to the cultural pressure put on women, but they exist for men too. As for the calf issue, it's something actors worry about as well. Laurence Olivier was self conscious about his calves and padded them. He was an athletic specimen in his younger days so I think it had more to do with the natural shape of his leg than a lack of bulk or muscle tone. Tyrone Power and Maurice Evans are two others I can think of who did the same. (Swashbucklers and Shakespeare require a lot of exposure in tights.) If they were around today, who knows, they might well consider implants, but I'm surprised any dancer would take chances with his limbs.

I've seen female dancers whose calves and thighs were too thin for my taste, but perhaps the difference is that excessive thinness is considered more desirable or at least acceptable in women, so skinny legs aren't as great a concern for them, whereas men with thinnish legs risk looking foolish in tights.

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Could it be male dancers? I can't remember a professlonal female ballet dancer whose calves needed anything added on...pointe work does a lot for that... but perhaps male technique wouldn't shape the leg quite the same way?

With all the jumping men do, I wouldn't think it'd be a problem.

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....the cultural pressure put on women......

And thank God such pressure is deserved. I love women. I love their shape and everything about them. If pressure maintains that goregous way they look, hurray for it. The most beautiful thing in the universe, as far as I am concerned, is woman.

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dirac and Patrick,

but I think the shape of actors' bodies is a different matter than the shape of dancers' -- one registering on film through a certain focal length of lens and the other to be seen live, raw, unprocessed -- it's a different viewing experience.

And, tying into the discussion about how far to go in talking about dancers' bodies, I think you can make a case for saying the most expressive dancers used to have non-ideal, odd ball bodies -- Peter Martins short waisted and Deanna Seay long waisted, Tina LeBlanc tiny, Melissa Hayden with military shoulders, Gonzalo Garcia with arms whose line curves up at the elbow towards the hand in a flourish well before he does anything, etc.

What sort of relationship do the new bodies have to the new choreography, which is very athletic and with very little variation in tempi -- more in the character of anxious gym classes than traditional ballet barre stretching movements with their equivalent of musical full stops?

You're right, dirac, about the cultural pressure on women -- maybe a new and more subtle form of 1950s is the order of the day.

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but I think the shape of actors' bodies is a different matter than the shape of dancers' -- one registering on film through a certain focal length of lens and the other to be seen live, raw, unprocessed -- it's a different viewing experience.

Quite right. I mentioned actors by way of pointing out that calf insecurity isn't a novel form of anxiety for male performers. (Olivier and Evans were both stage actors first although the former did become a movie star, so how they appeared in front of a live audience was very much a concern for both. Perhaps Kean and Irving did a little stocking stuffing as well. I'll have to look into it.:) )

I think dancers' bodies have gravitated to a certain ideal over the years with the expansion of the talent pool and improvements in training and nutrition - remember Tanaquil Le Clercq telling Barbara Newman, "Today it's like a master race" -- and that was decades ago.

You make a good point about the new athleticism in dance. It's also true that the cult of working out looms very large in our culture today.

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Thanks, Quiggan, for that fascinating link about men's body-image concerns. One research result intrigued me:

Eating disorders in males typically involve a constant competition to stay more defined than other men (University of Iowa Health Care, 2002)
So, there appears to be a strong competitive element to this behavior. Men want to look better than other men. I wonder if this also is a significant factor with women. And ballet dancers?

The culture of companies -- while there is much emphasis on collegiality and cooperation -- is also highly competitive. Sometimes this seems Darwinian: survival of the fittest and all that. Fittest in this case may include "most defined," "most buff," "most toned," and even (for men at least) "looks best in his underwear."

By the way, the Times article did not include "thigh enhancement" as one of the procedures in demand. It seems to me that in the days of those big, beefy Bolshoi men, BIG calves always went along with COLOSSAL thighs. Perhaps, with the modern emphasis on elegant line, normal thighs (the kind developed in class) are considered more aesthetically pleasing.

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re: legs.

...perhaps the difference is that excessive thinness is considered more desirable or at least acceptable in women,

I perceive this as a debate that has divided opinions, largely based on cultural issues. I think up until the likes of Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce started showing off their bodies all over the place instead of hiding it or altering it, the aesthetics vision on legs and thinness in the media was very inclined to the likes who possessed, let's say, the "boyish look", a la Madonna or Calista Flokhart...

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_IiplnYqAHO4/SvPX...a+Keys!.jpg

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re: legs.
...perhaps the difference is that excessive thinness is considered more desirable or at least acceptable in women,

I perceive this as a debate that has divided opinions, largely based on cultural issues. I think up until the likes of Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce started showing off their bodies all over the place instead of hiding it or altering it, the aesthetics vision on legs and thinness in the media was very inclined to the likes who possessed, let's say, the "boyish look", a la Madonna or Calista Flokhart...

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_IiplnYqAHO4/SvPX...a+Keys!.jpg

Good points, Cristian, and it has to do with pop culture vs. high culture too. The Balanchine thinness has long been discussed and critiqued, but I have usually read about problems stemming from it than noted it myself. I see a ballerina here and there who may seem very thin (as in Alessandra Ferri in the video with Corella of R & J), but I really haven't ever thought any female dancer's legs were 'too thin', in my opinion, except Vera-Ellen.

I hadn't known of Lopez being so showy, but Beyonce, yes. And now that you bring it up, I recently watched a show of hers from Vegas: She overdoes the showing off, which is not really upsetting, because she's voluptuous and gorgeous beyond belief--but for that very reason it comes across slightly strange, because with assets like she's got, you don't need to work at it. I also like your terming Madonna as a 'boyish look', that makes it work slightly better for me, since I've always found her a very ordinary-looking girl who wants to be sexier than she is. Even with Beyonce's unnecessary 'extra in-your-face movements', I'd much rather look at her than Madonna any day; and I think neither are great singers, so that looks have more to do with the show than they do with great vocalists.

As for cultural pressure put on women being greater than that on men, I don't know if that's all that obvious. But it could be because gay men (maybe even especially the most masculine) put greater emphasis on it--and on each other--than even straight men put on women (and women on themselves.) All the newer enhancements are not restricted to gay men, though, as straight ones want lots of the same 'enhancements', they get the same surgeries, buy billions of dollars in supplements, too. Such things as shaving the whole body of the male may be 'more gay than straight', I don't know. That started in the 80s and has never gone away--sometimes it looks good, sometimes it doesn't. There was a mid-90s cover story of New York Magazine entitled 'Are Men the New Women?' which interested me as a catchy phrase, and some of this tendency of men to spend lots of time primping was talked about. The mainstream actors of Hollywood seem to underplay this, except for the sculpting of bodies, as when you see how Tom Cruise's has been shaped in 'Eyes Wide Shut' (he does have a somewhat sculpted, artificial look in that, but this is nevertheless a superb shape). The increase in muscularity seems to be across-the-board increasing in men, although overweight people of either sex continue to have a hard time. There's also a Jungian text called 'The Adonis Complex', from about 2000, which goes into detail of many of the things Quiggin has linked to--guys who never think they have the muscles even when they do and even when they look in the mirror, and incredible eating disorders, breaking down into eating whole gallons of ice cream at once, that sort of thing.

I do think, now that I think back on performances, that I've often thought many male dancers in tights had legs that were very thin, but that in itself never bothered me, and sometimes made their most difficult virtuosic dancing look all the more effective for being razor-like, especially when they're also tall.

Advantages and disadvantages, but all of the artifice going into body modification of any kind is here to stay--the tattooing and piercing and extreme gymming all started in the 80s, and they're not going away. I guess we'll eventually have a thread about choreographers who have to 'take this into consideration', but the tattooing is already there, and presumably some of the dancers, in any case, know what they're doing when they get these procedures done. The worst problem IMO is the way some of the procedures begin to not be advantageous as time goes by, as has been documented, and which almost everybody has seen with bad nose jobs which start out looking good, but have a short 'shelf life'.

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I think this is more a man's thing. Living on the beach had made me seen EVERYTHING in terms of implants and augmentations, but the few times I've seen fake calves it has been in guys-(one of them also having fake pecs, BTW...).

I don't think I'd recognize anything but breast implants. It never occurred to me that people would get any other kind except cheek implants, which I have heard but which sound horrid.

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Ew, ew, and ew.

For the first two, I wouldn't have bothered, but the last one -- much better "before". They are the Tiger Woods' girlfriends' of calf implants.

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Thanks for the link, Quiggin. Men's body image problems remain miniscule in comparison to the cultural pressure put on women, but they exist for men too.

The assumptions behind ad campaigns like the MCB one we discussed yesterday give fresh cause for anxiety. Not only do the men have to worry about whether their dancing meets the AD's standards, now they have to worry about whether they're sculpted enough to meet the standards of the company's ad campaign. If the new audience doesn't stay, does that mean the six-packs weren't up to snuff?

The ballerinas have probably been fretting about being stunning since they were 8 anyway, but I do resent the PR folks using that adjective. Surely a woman who's devoted lord knows how many years to her art deserves to be showcased in a way that celebrates what she does, not how she looks. And they all look beautiful on stage anyway.

QUOTE

MIAMI BEACH, Fla (April 21, 2010) – Miami City Ballet (MCB) is launching a bold new ad campaign designed to introduce a new generation of ballet goers to the critically acclaimed company. The “Physical Poetry” campaign also seeks to instill awareness among South Florida audiences that their hometown company – set to celebrate its 25th anniversary – is considered one of the top ballet companies in the country.

[... ] The main campaign visual, which debuts at the end of the month, is an alluring image of two dancers on a beach – a shirtless, sculpted male dancer in jeans lifting a stunning ballerina in a tutu – creating an intriguing merger of contemporary and classical imagery. The idea is to present ballet in a way that is unexpected and causes viewers to rethink their assumptions about the art form. [ ... ]

Newspaper ads will continue the classical/contemporary theme – showcasing some of Miami City Ballet’s young talented stars. [ ... ] “We wanted to really bring out their personalities and use that to draw people in.”

[ ... ] the presentation of ballet in an unexpected way will serve as a new entry point to the art, drawing interest from fresh eyes to drive new ticket and subscription sales.

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Thanks for the link, Quiggin. Men's body image problems remain miniscule in comparison to the cultural pressure put on women, but they exist for men too.

The assumptions behind ad campaigns like the MCB one we discussed yesterday give fresh cause for anxiety. Not only do the men have to worry about whether their dancing meets the AD's standards, now they have to worry about whether they're sculpted enough to meet the standards of the company's ad campaign. If the new audience doesn't stay, does that mean the six-packs weren't up to snuff?

The ballerinas have probably been fretting about being stunning since they were 8 anyway, but I do resent the PR folks using that adjective. Surely a woman who's devoted lord knows how many years to her art deserves to be showcased in a way that celebrates what she does, not how she looks. And they all look beautiful on stage anyway.

QUOTE

MIAMI BEACH, Fla (April 21, 2010) – Miami City Ballet (MCB) is launching a bold new ad campaign designed to introduce a new generation of ballet goers to the critically acclaimed company. The “Physical Poetry” campaign also seeks to instill awareness among South Florida audiences that their hometown company – set to celebrate its 25th anniversary – is considered one of the top ballet companies in the country.

[... ] The main campaign visual, which debuts at the end of the month, is an alluring image of two dancers on a beach – a shirtless, sculpted male dancer in jeans lifting a stunning ballerina in a tutu – creating an intriguing merger of contemporary and classical imagery. The idea is to present ballet in a way that is unexpected and causes viewers to rethink their assumptions about the art form. [ ... ]

Newspaper ads will continue the classical/contemporary theme – showcasing some of Miami City Ballet’s young talented stars. [ ... ] “We wanted to really bring out their personalities and use that to draw people in.”

[ ... ] the presentation of ballet in an unexpected way will serve as a new entry point to the art, drawing interest from fresh eyes to drive new ticket and subscription sales.

Good. More food to feed the body of this already over hedonistic town...

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...now they have to worry about whether they're sculpted enough to meet the standards of the company's ad campaign.

Not to worry--everything can be fixed with Photoshop.

Last night while visiting the photo gallery of a particular ballet academy my daughter gasped at a photo of a teenage girl in a surprisingly high arabesque. Surprising, because the legs were not hers! I was initially looking from a distance, but upon closer inspection it became obvious that the legs had been Photoshopped onto the bottom of the costume (and not a perfect match, either). A ballet academy (with a recognized name) resorted to this? :clapping:

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[ ... ] upon closer inspection it became obvious that the legs had been Photoshopped onto the bottom of the costume (and not a perfect match, either). A ballet academy (with a recognized name) resorted to this? :blink:
:clapping: Let me process this: the visual image becomes more important than the actual physical performance. Is the next step to replace live performances with animatronics? It almost sounds like Coppelia for the 21st century.

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[ ... ] upon closer inspection it became obvious that the legs had been Photoshopped onto the bottom of the costume (and not a perfect match, either). A ballet academy (with a recognized name) resorted to this? :blink:
:clapping: Let me process this: the visual image becomes more important than the actual physical performance. Is the next step to replace live performances with animatronics? It almost sounds like Coppelia for the 21st century.

Anything could happen. I liked Quiggin's use of 'photoshopping' for the actual physical cosmetic procedures, though; hadn't thought of pulling 'photoshop' off its own medium. That's cool. I'm not myself a fan of photoshopping even in reproduction beyond a certain amount of airbrushing (which is not the same thing, unless that's included by now under the general umbrella of photoshopping), but I have talked to people who do like this stuff. Only important because it proves that you can go further and further into this kind of visual stuff, which in the case of its remaining purely virtual, is all fantasy. Someone started talking to me about the 'allure' of certain kinds of photoshopping (I don't find it to be alluring, just fake). But when the 'photoshopping' goes into the physical, it's still mostly fantasy, but that's not always terrible if the result is sound. Again, not talking about ballet or dancers, we'd really need some dancers or their masters to tell us if their performance looked better or worse after the calf implants, etc. And cosmetic procedures do in some cases enhance the self-esteem of at least some of its users, even when they oughtn't IMO. I know a guy who had pec implants and those thrilled him (although I don't know how long), and also there have been lots of magazine stories about Joan Rivers's endless chemical peels, etc,. and how she got 'high on them'. Well, I really don't care, at this point she's definitely reached the point of diminishing returns and looks ghastly, but that's her business, if she's got the money.

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....the cultural pressure put on women......

And thank God such pressure is deserved. I love women. I love their shape and everything about them. If pressure maintains that goregous way they look, hurray for it. The most beautiful thing in the universe, as far as I am concerned, is woman.

Sandy you must stop watching Mad Men so much, you hunter gatherer, you.

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