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nudity in ballets???

Guest lurry

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Mel Johnson

Let's not say the NEA won. Finley v. NEA was heard before the US 9th District Court, and only three judges sat on the case, so an 8-1 majority was impossible.


Where they did win, but not in the manner they expected, was in NEA v. Finley, and yes, it does make a big difference which way the names are placed when citing legal precedent. However, in the latter case, the Supreme Court of the US found for the NEA in despite of argument. What this term means is that the Plaintiff argued on the basis of some certain precedents, but the Court found on the basis of other cases and precedents not brought up by the Endowment. Is this what's meant by judicial activism? Only Messrs. Justices Scalia and Thomas found on the basis of the argument, and Mr. Justice Souter dissented from the opinion of the whole court, holding for the finding of the 9th District.


So, in accordance with the precedent set by this case, a triple tour done while naked could very easily be funded by the NEA, as long as the chair of the Endowment felt that it met the "decency and respect" clause of their empowering funding legislation. Nudity, per se, is insufficient to prove a work indecent or disrespectful.


Therefore, we are still left on the edge of Ockham's Razor.

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Guest lurry

Mel, I said YOU to do a triple tour. And yes, this would be considered indecent, so no, you wouldn't get funding. :thumbsup:


But as far as anybody else, because of the ruling many artists have chosen not to apply for the grant money because they have been afraid they may be censored too.

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With my Moderator's cap firmly affixed to my head, I'd like to steer this thread back to one of the two original questions:

... parents what do you feel about this? and what will / would you say to your dd or ds about this kind of a situation?


I'd also like to suggest that discussion of Lurry's other original question,

What do the dancers say if they feel uncomfortable about doing ballets like these, and what happens if the dancers refuses?
be moved into the other ballet forum "Ballet Talk" under Aesthetic Issues. I will start a thread there. I'm glad Lurry has brought this up - I'm curious, too, about the variety of first-hand replies that might be received over there. It's not an easy issue for us parents.


We can continue talking here about our kids and the important issue of when, if ever, and/or how and why we might or might not expose them to nudity in ballet. (Did I cover enough variables with that question? :) ) But this thread has shifted steadily into political issues of funding. That topic, and the one about what might happen to a professional dancer who refuses to participate in such a ballet, will reach a wider audience of knowledgeable people on Ballet Talk than it does here. Also, the Aesthetic Issues forum is set up to include provocative opinions which certainly suits the topic of nudity in ballet.


So, a big thank you, Lurry, for starting a thread on this. I'm looking forward to hearing what some of the professionals have to say about their journey through this provocative dance subject. :(

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DD is currently at Boston DanceLab and is scheduled to attend the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens performance at Jacob's Pillow. I had both an e-mail and a voice mail from those in charge of the DanceLab advising me that they had learned the program would include nudity and offering me the opportunity to withdraw my daughter from the fieldtrip with a full refund of the ticket.


The only information the DanceLab folks had was that a man and a woman dancer would disrobe, switch costumes, and continue dancing. They had been told the nudity on stage was part of the dance, was tasteful, and was not suggestive. I truly appreciated the contact from DanceLab.


I promptly tried to determine just what "nudity" meant as I could not quite imagine dancing without some type of "support" or body suit. (Unfortunately, I had occassion to see a "Vegas-style" show and know those topless dancers can't really get into the choreography). Based upon our experience with a local modern company, I suspected that more probably we would not be talking about "buck naked" issues. I figured that the Ballet Alert folks had this covered and you all came through with a description of the piece in question.


We have a local modern company that on occasion has some pretty suggestive pieces and some rather sketchy costumes. In the past, I would not let DD go to those performances without first vetting the pieces with the teachers/directors, etc. at our studio who were in the know. (the modern company often rehearses at our studio and we have many contacts). At this point in her development as a dancer, and given her age (14), however, I do not think that these risque' pieces are improper for her to view and appreciate the art form.


I will not withdraw her from the performance at Jacob's Pillow and am excited that she will have the opportunity to experience the choreography of what looks to me to be three vibrant and well-respected choreographers.


On the other hand, I was appalled, insulted, and disgusted by the Super Bowl Half-time show, continue to be disgusted by Britney Spears, et al. and will wear that "prude" label proudly.


Thanks for your help in researching the nature and degree of "nudity".

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dancemaven, your post speaks very well of DanceLab's organization (among other things :( ) - good for this SI for being able to handle the issue. :)

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Okay, I'll bite. My DS is attending an SI that will not be attending the performance discussed above...and I've been quietly seething.


I’m disgusted. And my son is disgusted. That’s stronger than just saying we’re disappointed, but it’s accurate, and this is why.


First, I would let my kids see this particular performance at any age, with the only limitation being that they sit quietly and not disturb others. I have made an effort to expose my kids to all of the arts, and to a wide variety of viewpoints. I’m not interested in creating clones of myself and my views, but in encouraging thinking rational beings, in creating decision-makers, leaders. I don't expect or even want my kids to agree with me. I want them to learn to think and evaluate for themselves.


Okay, that said, I'm still directing things, paying for them, driving to them, etc. So determining what is worth exposing my kids to requires me to be educated about a diverse array of things. That means that I need to learn things for myself, not listen to others. Based on that, I think--and I would venture to say that the general dance profession thinks--the performance these SI students are missing is worth seeing. I’m familiar with two of the pieces, and have seen other works by the choreographer whose piece is considered questionable. All of them are creative, thoughtful, even intellectual, and performed by really terrific dancers. Some experts will argue that some pieces are better than others, but I think all would agree they're worth seeing. They all stimulate discussion; they are all worth seeing and performing. These pieces are in no way similar--except for being performed by human beings--to the "performances" at the local strip club.


A big disappointment is that the SI’s decision sent a message--horrifying to me--that the performance was unacceptable. They didn't mean to, I'm sure, but that's what I'm hearing from a couple parents. It was a decision that denigrates art in general, and professional ballet dancers and choreographers in particular. Already in this forum, several parents are speculating that it was potentially inappropriate, offensive, even vulgar. However, based on a small chat I had with a decision-maker at the SI, I know for a fact that’s not what they (the decision-makers) felt. In fact, they believed this performance was fabulous. But the decision-maker's further comment made in that same chat indicated something, very tactfully put, about answering to the parents. (I am removing additional text that, in retrospect, I'm realizing was meant for my ears alone. I shouldn't have posted it. It could very easily be implied as criticism of some parents, and though I didn't make the statement myself, I obviously shouldn't have repeated it.)


These SI administrators are experts in their field, all retired professionals. We parents are paying them big bucks to impart their knowledge to our kids. But if they care at all about the kids they’re teaching and respect the profession they are in, it's pretty darn obvious that they're somehow going to have to also get involved in educating the parents too. I'm going to try to be really fair to the SI by saying that their decision was probably due more to a lack of time or laziness than an overwhelming fear of having to deal with parental outrage. But...I'm still perturbed, and if I'm wrong about them, and this SI is going to get into the business of censoring art, I'm not really interesting in supporting their endeavors. However, because the rational side of me thinks that's probably a gross exaggeration of what really happened, I'll sit down and write a letter when the SI is over. I have a few suggestions about how they can address this kind of thing more constructively in the future.


Now, I hope that's not too incoherent, but it's the best I can do at expressing my opinion at this time.

Edited by werlkj
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I continue to say, if you don't want to see it, then don't. If you feel your kids should not, ok. Don't try to stop others however.


Also realize, however, that during ANY performace, quick costume changes happen backstage and people back there can get an eyeful. Do we stop that also? Where DO we stop? Most people I know who are on stage don't have a problem, particuarly if they view themselves as a performer


Censorship of art is ugly, it NEVER works.

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Boston was unaware of the nudity until I emailed them on Sunday after reading this thread. Carolyn Kingston and Wesley Bresette looked into it for me and got back to me after they contacted Jacob's Pillow. They then emailed those at DanceLab the next day who were to go to the performance with a description of what was to happen and Jacob's Pillows phone number for those who still had additional questions. I certainly did not want to keep them from taking the girls to the performance but I do think the parents should have the opportunity to discuss the impending performance with their child before they go if they so desire. Censorship isn't the idea, it just gives a parent the opportunity to talk with their child about nudity and educate them in the difference between sexual nudity and "art" nudity.

I try to take advantage of every opportunity I can to have any kind of discussion with my children that will help instill morals and character. I want them to understand that nudity isn't dirty but that people can make it dirty depending on how it is handled. She is looking forward to the performance this weekend and plans to use Lurry's "going to the ladies room" approach if she feels uncomfortable.

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Obviously, I need to restate a couple things.


I had a conversation with the Director of the Program, regarding other things, in which this came up. He said he felt it was a shame to have to cancel plans to attend the performance at Jacob's Pillow. He said it would have been great, but it would have caused problems with some of the parents, and he was sure I understood. I said that yes I did, and wanted to say more, but figured I'd wait to give more feedback until the program was over. Frankly, I think the issue can be resolved very simply, as apparently some other SIs realized, by giving parents a heads-up and the ability to make the final decision. I applaud those SIs that did that.


I don't think all kids should have to go to these things. But nor do I think that all kids should miss the opportunity.


Finally, if your child is one of those who would be just as happy not to go, that's great. Both you and your DK is happy. My DK and I are just as disappointed and upset as you would be if you had no choice in the matter. Our choice was removed. Put yourself in my shoes, and think how upset you'd be if your DK was taken to this performance. That may or may not be (depending on degree) how upset I'm feeling right now.


I am incredibly pleased with WH; but like anything, there are always areas to work on and things they themselves are not happy with. In a previous post, I mentioned that my original, and only, phone call to this SI related mostly to the lack of protein at breakfasts, which the Director was perturbed about, had already checked on, and said would be fixed "immediately," and the final performance, which was listed in the packet as one performance with tickets' sold, and it turned out to be two performances, no tickets. I knew answering was going to be trouble. Vagansmom, you're dead meat!

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One more thing, I don't believe I criticized any parents. I believe we are all entitled to our own opinions and I respect others for having theirs. I may not agree with every opinion I hear, but that doesn't have anything to do with respect. Frankly, if disagreeing with an opinion always meant a loss of a friendship, none of us would have any friends at all. There are always going to be areas where people disagree.


However, I did say that a lot of parents clearly haven't seen many ballets. I think reading the posts on this thread since it began make that pretty apparent. I believe more strongly than ever that we parents need to get off our duffs and get out there and start seeing these things. It's the only way we can make decisions for and with our children—We, the parents — not the SIs, not the schools, not other parents.


I am sorry, very sorry, if I have offended any parents. I absolutely do respect your right to make decisions for your children.


Also, please note my edited post above, in which I removed a statement critical of parents, which I DID NOT MAKE, but I made the mistake of repeating. My mistake. I will never do that again on this board. Urk.

Edited by werlkj
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It's not unlike the kinds of problems we have in academic schools when it comes to a controversial or provocative issue.


I've never felt that we've resolved this sort of thing very well. I teach in a private school. We don't have directives from a wider school hierarchy as do public schools. We make our decisions ourselves. When something surprising comes up that we haven't dealt with before, and we need to make a "split decision", we do so and then afterwards take the time to figure out how the issue fits into our general policy. Most of the time, because we have a well-written self-study, we make the right decision but sometimes we don't.


Sex education, of course, is a good example. We have a strong program for 8th graders (my kids informed me it was far more comprehensive than the sex ed classes in high school). Parents have the right to keep their kids from attending these classes, kids have the right to remove themselves from the outset or at any time during the classes.


But kids won't do that. For one thing, of course, they WANT to attend sex ed classes. But even if they didn't, I doubt kids would remove themselves. They don't want to be different. They'll go no matter what. If they were forced by their parents,to not attend (I don't think we've ever had that happen), they'd be miserable.


So, from an administration's viewpoint - in the WH case - it looks like this: Do I inform families about the content and let them make the decision, thereby stigmatizing the minority who won't be allowed to go? Do I let everyone go and then I take the heat afterwards, risking possibly being told that I've ruined some child's innocence? Do I keep everyone home, thereby letting the beliefs of a minority rule the entire population? Or do I try to restrict it to the 16+ crowd, call parents in advance, and hope against hope no one objects because then I'd end up having to stigmatize some older kid(s) by their remaining at the studios while their peers attend the performance?


Hobson's choices - no matter what's done, it causes an uncomfortable problem with someone.


The only choice I can think of that works the best is to do what SAB does. Check out the performances in advance, inquire as to content so there are no surprises, then send a menu of activities to parents in advance, informing them as to content. I remember opting not to let my then 12 going on 13 daughter not see "Rent" that year. She didn't mind because there was something fun going on at the dorms the same night. Parents can pick and choose activities, paying only for what they sign up for. SI then also holds activities - ice cream social, games night, movie night, etc. - at the dorms for the kids who don't attend the performance.

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I'm coming late to the dance here. (And, I want to say that several thoughtful posts came in during the time I was composing this -- Vagansmom, I too had been thinking about the private school analogy. I think you perhaps stated the case better than I have here, but I'm not going to rewrite this for fear it will again become outdated while I do!)


Lurry, you opened this topic by asking how parents felt about nudity in dance. Two things happened: 1) Nudity somehow became confused with sexuality, and 2) most parents have expressed the opinion that nudity - and some, but not all, expressions of sexuality -- are okay with them. All agree that parents should maintain responsibility for setting viewing limits for their kids -- especially younger kids. We have differing conceptions of how damaging it is for kids to view the occasional work of art that may contain sexual overtones. We have differing conceptions of the damage that is done to society and culture when works of art (or intellect, for that matter) are censored.


The point of contention is what happens when a third party, to whom a parent has entrusted a child's education, gets stuck with making a decision. The third party clearly cannot please all parents, whichever decision it makes. Given advance warning, the path chosen by DanceLab is preferable. As a practical matter, however, the school may just have to make its best call. Parents are then free to express their disappointment or their support -- either verbally, or with future enrollment decisions. In hindsight, the program may wish it had made a different decision and promise to act differently in the future. This is the freedom on which our capitalistic society is based.


I think by this point we all know where each other stands.


There are deeper, hidden issues here which undercut the basic practical question. They are threatening issues that cause many of us to fear for the future. I, for one, think they will not be resolved in this forum, but that the discussion is useful for reminding ourselves where other people stand -- as frustrating as that may be.

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Guest lurry

I brought this topic to light because in a nutshell, " Ignorance isn't always bliss". People will censor, what they don't know. The only way for change to take place is to educate our children.


The school made a tough choice. They made it on the side of caution. Why? because of lack of knowledge on the parents part. Most parents still relate ballet to the classics. I have to admit, until this experience, I knew some works were suggestive, but I had no idea that ballet contained nudity. And personally, I'm not totally ignorant. However, think about those whom are.


Contemporary ballet and its contents are relatively new to the US. Europe has been exposed it for a long time now. Thus, parents are oblivious-- or most parents, to the nature of these ballets.


Then again, some places in the US are a lot more liberal and get a lot more exposure to these than other areas of the country.


This is why the subject is really important. Parents need to understand this is the trend and their DK may have to do these works someday. It needs to be adressed with them now, so events like this don't happen in the future and the child truely understand all aspects of the perfession they have chosen.

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First, Thank you sqmca for the initial email to the BBDL folks. As a parent of one of the girls attending I was pleased to get the phone call. Unfortunately my husband heard the message first on the machine and was alittle disturbed. (take into context it took a lot of coaxing to get him to let our 13 year old daughter spend her summer on the other side of the United States.) His thoughts quickly went to the sexual aspects of nudity and it's inappropriateness for his daughter.

It has been a struggle to educate my husband in the ballet arts and he has half heartily succumb to accepting my daughter's passion. Luckily, this threads comments made a difference in his viewpoint and now will allow my daughter to attend.

If my daughter ends up making dance her profession sooner or later she will have to make choices as a dancer as to being true to herself and her values. I'm all for Education not ignorance as the best form of making sound choices so I will be discussing this with her on the phone tonight suggesting that she view this ballet with artistic perspective and tell me afterwards if she thinks it added to the piece or distracted from it.

I hope all the BB Dk's have a wonderful time as they approach their last week of this S.I. especially at Jacob's Pillow.





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Good to hear, muck luck. But no matter what decision you made, it is clear that every single one of the posts and array of opinions voiced on this thread have been informative and valuable for us parents. The board--Ballet Alert--has fulfilled its purpose. Most excellent!

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