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Is this a radical idea or has it already been done?


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Hi !

I was watching some fashion videos on youtube and some of the haute couture costumes were fantastic...beautiful models wearing almost nothing but with wings made of real feathers...and i thought they could with a little tweaking change these angel feathers to look like swans. So i thought if something like this had ever been tried in ballet: in Swan Lake the dancers wear nothing or next to nothing and have wings made from real feathers and feathers sticking out of their behinds too? how about nudity in ballet from serious companies? does it exist? or is it still taboo?

 

 

 

 

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Well I don't know about ballet as such but I have seen semi-nudity or nudity in dance performances before now:

 

I can't remember the name of the piece but at the Edinburgh Festival we saw NDT perform a piece by Lightfoot/Leon to Mary Queen of Scott's funeral dirge.  At the end of the piece all the dancers took all their clothes off and walked off stage.

 

All the dancers are topless in Jiri Kylian's Bella Figura.

 

Many years ago I saw a piece called Murderer, Hope of Women where the costumes above the waist were painted on to the dancers' skin.

 

Dracula gets out of his coffin more or less naked at the start of David Nixon's Dracula.

 

I personally think that most costumes add to the overall atmosphere of the dance both in story ballets and abstract pieces.

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There's Mats Ek's Giselle, where Albrecht dances nude in the second act ...  I remember Tamara Rojo saying that she'd love it if the RB did the production, and I thought: "I *know* these dancers.  I wouldn't necessarily mind if it were a visiting company, but am not sure I want to see that on dancers I watch regularly, thank you very much."

 

And it's at this point that I start feeling the urge to go and look out Clement Crisp's famous quote about the problem being that certain parts carry on moving after the rest of the body has stopped ... :)

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That quote always comes to mind when the question of nudity is discussed.  I saw the performance he was writing about - Nederlands Dance Theatre - either late 1960s or early 1970s, (can't remember off hand) and thought he had summed it up perfectly.  Nothing I have seen since has made me change my mind.  Even in Bella Figura, the very slender ladies have enough jiggling to be distracting and off the music!  Probably not so noticeable in the theatre, but on the film version I have seen the camera is closer.

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I think the first time I saw nudity in ballet must have been Flemming Flindt's  Triumph of Death.  In one episode two female dancers stripped naked, later in the piece Flindt himself stripped off - quite right too in my book, if a choreographer wants his dancers to take their clothes off he should be prepared to do the same himself.

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...in Swan Lake the dancers wear nothing or next to nothing and have wings made from real feathers and feathers sticking out of their behinds too?...

You're not designing the Royal Ballet's new production by any chance are you? Some of us thought that the last had to be the nadir, but maybe not.

 

Edit: or, heaven help us, yet another revised revival of "Raven Girl".

Edited by Grand Tier Left
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I thought the quote Alison referred to was said by Robert Helpman about "Oh! Calcutta".
 
As far as major companies including nudity in dance, The Australian Ballet's "Tivoli" does. The Tiv was a famous club, similar to The Windmill and featured living statues. This is recreated in the ballet.
 
Didn't Deborah Bull (and many others including Sylvie Guillem) dance in a see-through costume in Forsythe's "Hermann Schmerman"?

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I think that with the best will in the world (so to speak), nudity is almost always just a distraction, no matter how sophisticated we all like to think we are now. Hofesh Shechter's recent 'barbarians' was an exception in this respect, though - I was a bit apprehensive (since he's not the most reticent choreographer), but it was absolutely beautiful. The lighting was kept very low, and the dancers stood in a row just dancing very slowly and gently. Wonderful.

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I agree that nudity is almost always a distraction in a production that is perhaps not very good. Then again, some productions oblige the dancers to wear such ugly and revealing costumes, they may as well be naked. I would prefer they weren't though.

I have only seen one such dance performance, the name of which eludes me but it was at Sadler's Wells. The female took her top off for no obvious reason, while the male remained fully clothed. Her bare breasts added nothing to the proceedings apart from waking a few people up.

We seem to have such a mixed up attitude towards nudity in this country. So many things are sexualized now, nudity is everywhere, all the time. Where do I live? you might say. We can't make up our minds whether we are amused, embarrassed or just plain bored by the lack of imagination of it all.

For me, even the most honed human body generally looks better clothed and dance/ballet is definitely enhanced by an beautifully designed costume. 

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