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 Post subject: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2002 5:46 am 
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I have noted, with interest, the recent commentary on the Ballet Prelocaj works at Sadler's Wells which include nudity. <P>No matter what the angle of the article, no reviewer seems to have been unable to bypass this aspect of the dance.<P>The question that it raises for me, is why nudity is still a scandal for dance, when it has long been accepted in other visual artforms. <P>Painting, sculpture and drawing are the most obvious of those: indeed, when I recently attended the Victorian Nude Exhibition at The Tate, my purple fishnet tights caused more of a stir than any of the "exhibitionism" on show, if you will pardon the terrible pun. <P>Nude sculpture/paintings have been around since the beginnning of art, as any trip to the British Museum in Bloomsbury will confirm. Even during the Victorian era, that most prurient of ages, the nude was widely accepted in visual art.<P>Today, in films, television, advertisements etc there is widescale nudity. I hear no outcry when the latest James Bond film comes out, with naked women and men galore. <P>Which begs the question, what is different about dance? Two answers come to mind: its immediacy and movement.<P>Unlike films, the live nature of dance means that someone is actually naked right in front of you: no airbrushing, no clever camera ankles, no distancing through the silver screen. This tangibility undoubtedly makes the nudity more real, and therefore more shocking. <P>Movement, the major difference between dance and static artforms such as sculpture, also makes nudity more real. Flesh in motion has a more naturalistic quality than posed photographs or sculpture. We are not separated from it by the gulf of "art" and design, nor are we spared the inherent ludicrousness of the human body in motion.<P>All of which highlights the fact that despite the seeming "liberalism" of the age, society is in not comfortable with the human body: unless it is airbrushed, sculpted, or posed out of all recognition, or we are distanced from it through the medium. <P>I think Ballet Prelocaj should be congratulated for making us confront our own discomfort. <P>


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2002 3:34 pm 
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MariaR stated:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Movement, the major difference between dance and static artforms such as sculpture, also makes nudity more real. Flesh in motion has a more naturalistic quality than posed photographs or sculpture. We are not separated from it by the gulf of "art" and design, nor are we spared the inherent ludicrousness of the human body in motion.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>MariaR, why do you say the human body in motion is inherently ludicrous?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Fri May 03, 2002 11:24 pm 
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Err, wasn't it Robert Helpman who said that the trouble with nude dancing is that not every stops when the music does?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Sat May 04, 2002 7:07 am 
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Very good!


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2002 1:18 pm 
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I think this is a UK and perhaps a US phenonenon Maria, for plays as well as dance. Remember all the fuss about Nicole Kidman's brief nude scene on the london stage?<P>It's difficult to believe that the Dutch and other Continental countries would bat an eye-lid. Thinking back, the UK newspapers missed a trick with The Hans Hof Ensemble recently at The Place, where all the women and the men were nude towards the end of the work.


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Mon May 06, 2002 12:37 am 
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I think you are right Maria in that it is because of the immediacy and close-up nature of theatre and dance performance. With TV and film there is still an imposed distance.


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Tue May 07, 2002 11:58 am 
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Thinking further about nudity in dance, my experience is that is is rarely used for erotic effect, but has a closer link to a nude sculture rather than the filmic usage, which is almost invariably erotic.<P>I remember a delightful Dutch piece from a few years ago with a darkened stage, one totally nude man and four women with torches who provided the lighting. All was very decourous until the final seconds, when all the girls shone their torches on the <B>critical</B> spot - the best dance joke of the year. My 80-year old Mum laughed fit to burst.<P>However, in general Anglo-Saxons are not happy about bodies - time to lighten up methinks.<P>We had an earlier discussion on this theme in 'Issues' and here is the link:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/000008.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.criticaldance.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/000008.html</A> <P>But please continue this discussion here.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by Stuart Sweeney (edited May 07, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2002 11:37 pm 
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Stuart, I think you are right in saying that nudity live on stage is percived as more scandalous in the UK than it would be on the Continent. When I first came to London I was amazed at all the fuss in the papers about the play "The Graduate" which flared up again and again whenever a new actress was about to take over the role of Mrs. Robinson.<BR>I could not help but wonder why a brief nude scene was considered such a big deal in this day and age.<P>I am fairly sure in Germany this might have made the papers maybe once just before or at the play's premier but not again and again and again.<P>Could anyone enlighten me as to why it is so different over here?<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 2:37 am 
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I can think of two reasons for the difference in attitude between the UK and the rest of the Continent:<P>A long tradition of "No nudity please, we're British" based on Victorian values that regard the human body as shameful. These values are entrenched in and perpetuated by institutions: from schools, which seem to fail teach any human anatomy at all, to the Monarchy (c.f. the number of layers of clothes that the members of the Royal Family wear at all times, and the scandal that ensued when one or two of them, notably Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah Ferguson dared to bare a shoulder or two.)<P>The second reason is that other great British institution: the weather. Unlike the other European countries, the weather in the UK is almost never balmy enough to encourage a loss of clothes. So unlike our French, Italian, German etc counterparts, we do not grow up in a culture where it is commonplace to wear little or nothing (as one finds in the beaches of those countries: you can always tell the British people, they are the ones wearing shorts, t-shirts, socks and sandals in 90 degree heat). The lack of weather-induced nudity in the UK means we are socialised into believing the human body should always be clothed, preferably in several layers of thermal underwear. To see people publicly nude is therefore shocking, whilst in the continent, it is quite ordinary. It is the extraordinary (in the strict sense of the word) nature of nudity in the UK that makes it scandalous. <P>One finds some of the reasons stand in the USA too: outcry against nudity is usually strongest in the New England (Boston, NY etc) area, whilst in California no one blinks an eye. The comparative value and weather differences are the same as between the UK and the Continent. <P>Perhaps there is a thesis here on the link between social values and weather-conditions!! ;-)


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 4:06 am 
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Absolutely not! In Australia few people strip down into swim wear even on the beach, most go into the sea with long shorts, tee shirts and even hats on, especially children. When I was in Queensland in January the temperature was nudging 100 degrees, my shoulders were actually burned through the cotton shirt I was wearing and I was forced to put on sun block under my clothes.<P>Speaking as a non Anglo-Saxon I always thought the nudity so popular among the continentals had more to do with exhibitionism than anything else.


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 4:57 am 
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Well actually we have come a long way where nude dance is concerned, there was a time when nudity was totally vetoed in the UK. The dancer William Louther told me the story of his attempt to dance naked in his ballet Vesalii Icones. His argument for nudity was that he was portraying the anatomical drawings of the anatomist Vesalius and therefore clothing would be inappropriate. Posters went up all over London showing a nude man in murky lighting, the full frontal pictures taken at the photo shoot were not used. Expectations were running high but the management of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, where the ballet was to be danced, stepped in to insist that Bill must not dance nude. I think the year was 1969 or thereabouts.<P>The ballet was a huge success, even though it was performed in a manner that went against the choreographer's wishes. Nudity eventually appeared at a main dance venue a few years later, with NDT's Mutations, which I'm told was packed with members of the dirty Mac brigade (I rely on hearsay, I didn't see it). <P>Personally I must admit to some ambivalence about nudity and dance. I remember quite vividly my acute embarrassment when I went to see a new piece choreographed and performed by former colleagues. About two thirds of the way through the ballet the cast of three was required to strip off. I was mortified! The moment the performance ended I headed for the exit at top speed. What upset me so much was that the two girls were people I knew really well and I felt that in some way they had been humiliated. The third member of the cast was a male dancer whom I didn't know and I was therefore indifferent to his nude state, in fact during the ballet I concentrated on him, rather than looking at my naked friends.<P>Perhaps the amateur psychologists among you can explain my embarrassment.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 5:54 am 
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Hi Cassandra could you define exhbitionism for me please. Where would you draw the line between 'being comfortable with one's body' and 'exhibitionism'?<P>To give you an example of what I mean I was not brought up to be ashamend of my body so<BR>if I have to take my clothes off for an medical exam I do not have a problem with that at all. A friend of mine who was brought up to believe that nudity is shameful<BR>sort of suffers if she has to do the same.<P>Does my relaxed attitude make me an exhibitionist?<P>You said in your second post that you felt that your friends in the dance performance had been humiliated somehow? Provided they took part in the performance out of their own free will and the nudity was used in a tasteful way why did you feel that way?<P>I am trying to understand better where you are coming from. I hope you don't mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 6:54 am 
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Your Aussie example is interesting Cassnadra. Do you think it could be because of the health risks of stripping off under such brilliant sun? I'm aware that the 'macho' Aussie cricketeers were the first to wear white sun block on their faces during cricket games.<P>Petra, I'm aware that nudist sunbathing is common among German families and that there are specialist companies and islands catering for this. In addition there are the mixed saunas throughout Northern Europe. One German friend of mine was disgusted that we go into UK saunas wearing nylon swimwear. Given these attitudes it's easy to see that some on-stage nudity would not cause much fuss.<P>I think Maria's allusion to Victorian attitudes makes sense and the strong sense of guilt that pervades Anglo-Saxon attitudes to this day.


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 7:06 am 
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No Odile, I don’t mind at all, certainly your example of stripping off for a medical examination, could never be classed as exhibitionism, it’s a necessity at times. As someone who has suffered quite serious ill health in recent years, it’s something I have done on a number of occasions without a second thought. However I’m aware that to many people, such as the friend you mention, it can cause very real distress.<P>I would define an exhibitionist as someone who acted in a way to draw attention to themselves and nothing draws attention more quickly than shedding ones clothes in public. There is a man in London who does this regularly for some obscure political reason and he is therefore arrested by the police regularly too.<P>On the whole peoples attitudes to nudity depends on factors such as age, upbringing and (increasingly) their ethnicity. In a multi ethnic society it is becoming apparent just how offensive even normal clothing can appear to those of a different cultural background.<P>As I said in my earlier post, I’m still not certain why I reacted with such horror to the sight of two people I knew well naked in public, but it could well have been an awareness of the sniggering attitude that too many men of my acquaintance have when confronted with the sight of a nude woman.<BR><p>[This message has been edited by Cassandra (edited May 09, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Nudity in dance: what is the scandal?
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2002 7:31 am 
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Stuart, skin cancer is now rife among Australians and I think that with awareness of the loss of the ozone layer, Aussie attitudes will soon spread to Europe and the nudists will be regarded the same as smokers, people with no concerns for their own well being. Fortunately though you can't suffer harm from passive nudity.<P>I wasn't aware that modest Brits cover up in the sauna. What is the point of going? I was once invited to the Russian baths in Moscow. It was strictly an all female affair. I was assured I would lose weight, but after the bath, we lolled around on the sofas in the changing rooms eating chocolates and watching ballet on the telly, so I imagine the weight went straight back on. It was good fun though.<BR>


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