Jump to content
Ann Williams

Women dancers ‘spatchcocked and inverted, genitals to the fore’ by some male choreographers

Recommended Posts

I was pleased to see that Luke Jennings in his dance review in the Observer today [www.theguardian.com/stage/2013/nov/17/royal-ballet-triple-bill-romea-juliet-review/review] raised the issue of the crude in-your-face movements that some current male choreographers demand of their female dancers. I agree with his singling out of Wayne McGregor, because I’ve long thought that this is McGregor’s worst fault  - it is the reason I think hard before buying a ticket to see any of his shows.  

 

Is it just me, or do others here feel the same, not just about McGregor but other choreographers too?  (Luke Jennings suggests that Wheeldon too is beginning to stray in the same unpleasing direction).

Edited by Ann Williams
  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I haven't seen this programme, but when I saw one of McGregor's pieces, last year I think it was, I remember feeling quite disturbed by the way in which Sarah Lamb's body was being manipulated by her male partner. I don't want women's crotches being thrust in my face, even from a distance; it feels on the verge of pornographic to me.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually I felt this a bit with David Dawson's new Human Seasons, the girls seemed to spend a LOT of time just being pulled about by the boys. 'Manipulated' is a good word for it. Wasn't a fan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't read the link but yes, in my VERY humble opinion, it's all too gymnastic, manipulated and in-your-face for me to enjoy it (or even tbh, to think of it as Ballet). That is just my not very knowledgeable opinion though.

 

Edited to add that I've just read the review - and I agree.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Jennings doesn't say in his piece - though he can hardly be unaware of it - is that this aspect of male choreography for women is not new; it's there quite clearly in some of Balanchine's work, and certainly in a lot of MacMillan's work, although McM's sexism, if that's what it is,  isn't quite so obviously physical.

 

It's probably going to take a seismic shift to change things, but at least Luke Jenning's piece has brought it out into the open (for the first time as far as I know) and it helps greatly that it's actually a man who has turned the spotlight on it.  I hope we can keep the spotlight on it by continuing to  discuss it here.

Edited by Ann Williams
  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do recall the first run of William Tuckett's Seven Deadly Sins for the RB some years ago, and being quite put out at what he did with Ms Yanowsky.  I'm sure I wrote something on ballet.co along the lines of the choreography consisting of little more than the same sin, seven times over in different cities, involving her being manhandled in an extremely inelegant fashion - and I passed on it when it was revived a couple of years or so later as a result.

 

By comparison, for examples of erotic situations handled convincingly and without such display, Cathy Marston's work has several.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's probably going to take a seismic shift to change things, but at least Luke Jenning's piece has brought it out into the open (for the first time as far as I know) and it helps greatly that it's actually a man who has turned the spotlight on it.  I hope we can keep the spotlight on it by continuing to  discuss it here.

 

Not the first time at all. Alastair Macaulay has written several reviews in which he takes profound exception to the way in which women are manhandled and exhibited. If I remember rightly this mainly relates to Christopher Wheeldon's work as in this piece.

 

One has to accept that in dance what you see is really happening: if a man is dragging his partner across the floor it really is a man dragging a woman along on the floor, something which would be generally considered socially unacceptable. In context it may be entirely valid and make an important dramatic point but equally it may be gratuitous, as I felt it to be in The Human Seasons.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Weren't there a couple of Balanchine ballets which seemed to spend quite a bit of time "exploring" how many ways to bend the female dancer?  That could have been the beginning - or at least part  of  - what we see now.

 

 

I think this is also part of the same view that equates passion with grappling.  I believe it was in 1982 that I saw (and I have the video) of a Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Nureyev with Nureyev and Fracci (Fonteyn as Lady Capulet, as I recall).  I was looking forward to this - always loved Fracci and was excited to see her dance Juliet to Nureyev's Romeo.  However, I was very disappointed - to me the passion was simply frenzied grappling.  I see that as a beginning of the trend of manipulation.

 

Of course, we see that in film, too.  And what passes for literature.

 

The choreographers, authors, etc - no longer trust the "theater of the mind."

 

Besides - subtlety takes thought.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello everyone

 I rarely post but am moved to do so-pleased that I am not alone in feeling just the same as you all do.

I actually wrote to RB about Tuckett's Seven Deadly Sins, as I felt it was actually quite offensively misogynistic and made me feel very uncomfortable, in fact angry-and I recall saying something like- "Can you really not find a better use for the superb talent of the sublimely elegant Ms Yanowsky?"

 

Perhaps I was a bit pompous, but.  ....

I have also written to them to suggest they find some women choreographers. (No reply)

Macmillan may have been guilty too at times but- a) that was a while ago now and things should have improved; B) there is also a great deal of very interesting choreography for women in his work of course and there is often great depth and insight, in my opinion.

 

Things should have moved on, shouldn't they?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I find myself getting just as irate as the somewhat "gynaecological" poses now found in classical (usually "tutu") ballets due to inappropriate overextensions, but that's not quite the same thing.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I find myself getting just as irate as the somewhat "gynaecological" poses now found in classical (usually "tutu") ballets due to inappropriate overextensions, but that's not quite the same thing.

Agreed, Alison - and I find myself longing for the return of the traditional frilled tutu knickers in classical ballets, otherwise they can become as much of a crotchfest as the modern works.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ugh, don't get me started on over extended penchée arabesques showing everything but the kitchen sink. :-(

 

Going back to the original question, I think the difference for me between MacMillan and in particular McGregor is that when the choreography is part of a story ballet it seems much more justifiable. I'm thinking of Mayerling in particular - being so swept away in the story that the choreography is part of the passion, so doesn't stand out in the wrong way as overly exposing or manipulation for the sake of it.

 

Whereas when I watch some of McGregor's work it has a cold and clinical feel to it which makes the choreography stand out - but in the wrong way. Almost like some sort of science experiment, if that makes sense?

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be honest I have found some of these ballets which are supposed to be "pushing the boundaries" end up being rather repetitive and boring.  It reminds me of some of the more outrageous modern comedians - they haven't anything clever or original to say, so they just use shock tactics to get a response.

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is so much posted above with which I agree.

 

The overdone penché and oversplit grand jeté made more graphic by  the plain unfrilled knicker/panty of today's tutu 

 

The hard discus graceless tutu that sits up on top of the hip rather than down on the hip

 

The bare legs even in some classical ballets

 

 

I, too, find it repetitive and boring - what distinguishes one of these PDD from another?  It is clinical, empty, and a scientific experiment - how many ways can the human female bend -

 

....and exactly how much of this will the audience put up with and better yet -- pay for?

 

 

 

 

The comedians of today who rely on shock rather than art (where is the exquisite timing of a Jack Benny?)

 

Films that have no real ending - the storyline ends when apparently they run out of film.  Writing a good ending takes talent.

 

Dialogue that has one word to describe everything - it begins with "F" - but has various endings such as "ing," "ed," or "s.."  (It does make it easy to memorize a script.)

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interestingly, although there was a bit of a crotchfest (love the expression, Anne) at Stuttgart Ballet's performance last night the women wore shorts in a number of the pieces, which is preferable to leotards without tights for this type of work (IMO).

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello everyone

 I rarely post but am moved to do so-pleased that I am not alone in feeling just the same as you all do.

I actually wrote to RB about Tuckett's Seven Deadly Sins, as I felt it was actually quite offensively misogynistic and made me feel very uncomfortable, in fact angry-and I recall saying something like- "Can you really not find a better use for the superb talent of the sublimely elegant Ms Yanowsky?"

 

Perhaps I was a bit pompous, but.  ....

I have also written to them to suggest they find some women choreographers. (No reply)

Macmillan may have been guilty too at times but- a) that was a while ago now and things should have improved; B) there is also a great deal of very interesting choreography for women in his work of course and there is often great depth and insight, in my opinion.

 

Things should have moved on, shouldn't they?

Well done on taking action Mary. Did you get a reply from the first letter then? The one about Seven Deadly Sins?

 

I remember going to see Lynn Seymour in MacMillan's Anastasia when I was a teenager and being quite repulsed. Did anyone else on here see it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't receive any acknowledgement, no- and I was disappointed- I have been going to RB for 40 years ( on and off!) am a Friend and a huge supporter and have to say that normally I am enthusiastic abut new work (well except Alice), but 7 Deadly Sins I really found offensive.

McGregor I just find slightly boring now- because as has been said it is so repetitive, and there is no emotional narrative-I don't mean a story, but -it is all on the same level, there is no tonal variation. Also there seems very little if any development in his style and concerns- you could mix up chunks from all his works , give them different coloured vests,and call it 'Contortions 3' and plenty of people would   not realise it was old work-including me.

I don't like the way his work presents women dancers- or the men- because it seems to me dehumanising.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think it's very interesting this is being talked about, mainly because I've always thought that what's so powerful about Macmillan's work is that through dance and the stories he chose to portray, he enables very difficult issues and emotions to be addressed. It was often, but not always, women and their part in society that he picked up on. When I watch Mayerling, I see a woman being contorted around a man, but actually, what I really notice (and what I suspect Macmillan wanted me to see) is the terror in Princess Stephanie, the anguish in Rudolf, the journey of emotion we see in Mary. And then we talk about it - and it reflects real events in real life and therefore we're talking about things that are often swept under the carpet. And with a polite display of dance on stage, without a choreographer willing to explore those difficult themes and without dancers willing to put their bodies through that, we're a less informed group.

And that's the joy of the arts for me anyway (just my tuppence-worth anyway, and I also am beginning to find MacGregor very same-y).

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Talking of which, the photograph of  Stuttgart Ballet's Alicia Amatriain which accompanies the review of Made in Germany in today's Evening Standard is closely focused on her 'between the legs' area. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have to agree with the above and I can only say that I detest McGregor - he should be dismissed from the Royal Ballet.  His "work", as I mentioned about Raven Girl, is gymnastics not ballet.  I wonder what the dancers themselves think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting thread. I'm going to both performances at the ROH on Saturday so I'll save my thoughts for now. Having said that, I have wondered at some of the stills I have seen from these modern ballets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well done to Luke Jennings for his unique ability to articulate a concern felt by many. He is not afraid of getting to the nub of an issue, unlike some of the more sycophantic 'critics'.

 

I too feel like some of the ballets mentioned above are more like exercises in contortionism than artistic expression.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

this piece.

 

I have just read the review by Alastair Macaulay of some recent Wheeldon work-attached above--thanks so much John Mallinson for attaching it- how very well put and it says what I was trying to say much better-I do commend it to anyone who hasn't got round to it yet. What Macaulay says about how an audience identifes with both the ballerina and her partner is spot on.

 

I do think some of these  choreographers are young men without perhaps very much knowledge or understanding of grown-up women, and they are  working in a culture that has gone backwards fast in some of its attitudes, notably in defining women as sex objects.

 

I agree with everything said about Macmillan, whose work rises above all this, shows characters not objects, involves us on every level..(but  I wish he didn't have to have to have the same old "harlots" in every piece...and the costume dept I swear give them the same red curly wigs...)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with all of the above comments, (and although I prefer artistry, finesse and story telling over pure physicality, I can appreciate both) However in todays climate where it seems that almost everything has to be sexualised or objectified by business and the media, and consequently, us the consumers are conditioned to 'accept it', is it any surprise that the same practice is being used in ballet ? Choreographers have always pushed boundaries, this is simply a new one...( Love both Macmilan and Wheeldon btw ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, artists including choreographers have always pushed boundaries - but I believe those boundaries should be about something - make us think- imagine, glimpse a new vista.

 

If boundaries are pushed  I want to see a reason for it.   I accept the necessity of seeing nudity in a movie like Schindler's List.  I know that war is bloody and a movie about war will be bloody - but I don't want see the gore in slow motion.

 

I don't see a reason for seemingly countless "dances" exploring the same joint distortion.  

 

When I view this, I ask myself - will I remember this "dance" ten years from now?  Five?  Tormorrow?  Would I want to see it again?

 

Frankly, I think that if one does not have the talent to design clothes, one pretends the emperor is dressed and blames the observer for not being "sophisticated" enough to see the non-existent clothing.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Capybara have been up in London for couple of days and I saw that pic in the Evening Standard and even though hadn't read this thread then as didn't have IPad with me I thought what a really horrible pic it was. Presumably the photographer had taken quite a few pics so interesting why that particular one was chosen for the paper.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...