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A challenge to the Arts, Ballet included - stop sanitizing content


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Whilst engaged on this morning's Links trawl I saw a title for an Opinion piece in the Washington Post that had no obvious Ballet/Dance applicability but, on checking, sure enough, Ballet was covered as the argument was developed so I posted it.  The article was written by critic Philip Kennicott, and I repeat the link here:
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/a-challenge-for-the-arts-stop-sanitizing-and-show-the-great-works-as-they-were-created/2014/10/01/15237d24-45af-11e4-b47c-f5889e061e5f_story.html
 
He mentions the Arabian or Oriental character dances in the 19th Century classics and adds:
 
"And perhaps no other art form more resolutely depicts women in degrading ways, submissive, weak and literally the physical playthings of their stronger male partners."
 

Later he cites Alexei Ratmansky:
 

"The rehashed homophobia, gender stereotypes and contempt for effeminacy offered up by contemporary choreographer Alexei Ratmansky (in “Don Quixote” and “The Limpid Stream”) feel genuinely different than the ludicrous and dated Orientalism and misogyny in a ballet such as “Scheherazade”; one invites a living disgust, the other an intellectual dissection."
 

But, overall, his argument is that works of art should not be sanitized or modified to fit contemporary ideas.  So, as I see it, the recent enforced closure of "Exhibit B" at The Barbican on racial grounds would probably not be something of which Mr Kennicott would have approved, a view taken by many in the Arts world after it occurred.

 

So, at the risk of giving offence to some, do we leave the classics as they were conceived and preserve "the history embodied in the canon"?  

Edited by Ian Macmillan
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So, do we leave the classics as they were conceived and preserve "the history embodied in the canon"?  Or do the other thing and permit Art to show us "our own ugliness, weakness and cruelty" that we may better understand it?

 

Is this not the same thing - said a different way?

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On second thought, let's consider the classics....

 

In Swan Lake it seems to me that it is Odile who manipulates the out come of the story.  Siegfried is weak and fairly easily manipulated..

 

Coppelia:  Surely the wilfull Swanilda overshadows all the other characters.

 

Sleeping Beauty:  The Lilac Fairy drives that story.

 

Giselle:   A story of the ultimate strength of feminine will and love.  Albrecht learns his lessons from Giselle.

 

La Bayadere:  The priest is evil, Solor is weak and the Rajah a despot.  While the Bayadere is a victim, she is also the victor. Gamzetti is not at all weak - a brat - but not weak.

 

La Sylphide:  The only male role of significance is James - and he is totally dominated by a woman (sylph, though she be).  Effie ends up wise and happy.  

 

Romeo and Juliet:  It is Juliet who proposes marriage, defies her family, goes to the priest, finds a "solution" and is brave enough to take a chance with seeming to die - and then actually kills herself when she wakes to see Romeo has died.

 

Cinderella:  The father is a total non-entity - having no courage to defend his own daughter, stand up to his wicked wife and her two brats. 

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On second thought, let's consider the classics....

 

In Swan Lake it seems to me that it is Odile who manipulates the out come of the story.  Siegfried is weak and fairly easily manipulated..

 

Coppelia:  Surely the wilfull Swanilda overshadows all the other characters.

 

Sleeping Beauty:  The Lilac Fairy drives that story.

 

Giselle:   A story of the ultimate strength of feminine will and love.  Albrecht learns his lessons from Giselle.

 

La Bayadere:  The priest is evil, Solor is weak and the Rajah a despot.  While the Bayadere is a victim, she is also the victor. Gamzetti is not at all weak - a brat - but not weak.

 

La Sylphide:  The only male role of significance is James - and he is totally dominated by a woman (sylph, though she be).  Effie ends up wise and happy.  

 

Romeo and Juliet:  It is Juliet who proposes marriage, defies her family, goes to the priest, finds a "solution" and is brave enough to take a chance with seeming to die - and then actually kills herself when she wakes to see Romeo has died.

 

Cinderella:  The father is a total non-entity - having no courage to defend his own daughter, stand up to his wicked wife and her two brats. 

 

Well said Anjuli, you express something I have often noticed, especially in the works of certain choreographers.  Ashton, for example, created wonderfully strong, even wilful female characters but most of his male protoganists are so wet they leave footprints.

 

Linda

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Anjuli/Sheila:  You are quite right.  In a rush at the time, I now see that I had set up a false antithesis in the sentences quoted, and I have now changed things accordingly.

 

Ah, good.  I thought I was having a comprehension failure :)

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