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Ballet Talk for Dancers

nudity in ballets???

Guest lurry

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I hope that all of you who have dancers going to Jacob's Pillow this weekend will give us a report of their reaction to the ballet and also some insight into the discussions you have with them about this topic! :)

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I know this isn't the place for this but...

Curious what level or suite your dd is in Muck Luck. Wondered if the girls know each other. My dd turned 13 today!

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Lurry, you have made an astute observation. Those of us who live in cultural centers, comparatively, often forget that not everyone gets exposed to the arts in the same way. I can see how this performance might have come as a shock to you (or others), and I applaud the fact that you are taking in this new observation and using it to help your DK inform her career planning -- and urging others to enter these conversations with their eyes open.


You are also correct that the SI erred on the side of caution. From the perspective of someone who sits on the board of a private school, I can certainly understand why. Lawsuits, etc, can be distasteful, etc. However, I most admire those educational institutions who clearly define their missions and act in accordance with those precepts. In this particular case, I would rather the SI had gone ahead with the original plan to take the students to the performance -- assuming, that is, that they had thoughtfully determined the performance to be artistically interesting and valid.

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Okay, for all you parents who would like to know anything at all about the specific piece — Mats Ek's "Solo for Two" — that is referred to on this thread, here's a tiny bit of info from one of the Swedish press sites online. (Of course, we're assuming the program will actually be danced as planned.)


There are a number of reviews and other references to this specific piece on the web, but much of it is not in English, so it's unfortunate that a lot more can't be learned about what reviewers and others think (unless you can decifer Swedish, Dutch, German, etc. a lot better than I. Actually, I can make my way through some of the swedish okay.)


If you do a bit of research on Ek, you'll notice he is a very interesting fellow--very cerebral and witty, I think, and certainly not bogged down in anyone else's idea of aesthetics. For example, his version of Carmen, which is relatively easy to obtain, is a hoot and a half. Probably loads of fun to dance, too. But the staggering in the death scenes are over-the-top funny to me, and remind me of the old westerns on TV in the 50s.


I've never seen the "Solo for Two," but like the rest of his work, it would probably be a lot of fun to dance too. I am curious how many DKs who see this piece would agree, not for now, but when they're older.

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Guest lurry

This might be interesting for parents to know; I stumbled on it accidently, looking for information on companies, i.e. height req. Instead I found something that related to this topic.


The BB is involved with the AGMA and in the contact it had this to say "(h) DANCERS shall not have the right to refuse to appear in any dancing role as assigned by the Artistic Director except when morally unacceptable to the ARTIST (e.g. nudity). " :offtopic:


It is great to know dancers really do have an option. This in fact is if your involved in some kind of union agreement if I'm not mistaken.

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Mel Johnson

As I pointed out earlier, it all depends on the contracts, whether General or Individual. Many things depend on the contracts. For example, one girl I know had it agreed to in her contract that she would not have to dance on Friday nights, as she was an observant Jew. I can't say how many "sabbath" contracts are out there, but I bet there's more than one!

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DD just called to report on the Jacob's Pillow performance. She absolutely loved two of the three performances. The Mats Ek piece, however, didn't do much for her. She said it was because she simply did not understand it. The program notes said the two dancers were suppose to be reflections of themselves (ying & yang concept?), but she didn't get it. She said it was "buck naked" by both dancers, but she was neither shocked nor offended. Although she did say she wasn't sure she'd send a twelve-year old to see it. (DD will be fifteen in two months.) She was glad I did not pull her from the opportunity to see the piece, but didn't think she'd be too interested in seeing that piece again.


She does not feel scarred by seeing the naked dancers. She said she was thinking "how very secure they must feel with themselves to be able to do this." So, while I sure wouldn't seek out naked dancers for my daughter to watch, I feel okay with this experience. Certainly better than I did having my daughters watching the SuperBowl half-time bump and grind, nasty bit.


The Mats Ek piece was the first piece performed, so it was forgotten in the beauty of the Nacho Duarto and the hilarity of the Jiri Kilian (sp?). She now loves Duarto's work. And I am thrilled she had the opportunity to see these three choreographers---which I doubt will appear anytime soon in our city.

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Mel Johnson

That's kind of what I thought a teen's reaction to undress would be: "Nekkid, eh? OK, what else ya got in the way of dancin'?"

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Dd called this afternoon with her report from Jacob's Pillow also. She thought one of the pieces was hilarious and one was very pretty. Her response to the "nekkid dancin'" was that she didn't understand it. She said the man and woman undressed and "just stood there for like five minutes". The man was facing the audience which made her a little uncomfortable. The part that struck me as funny was when I asked her if it bothered her at all and she said "Yah! The guy had a belly button ring!!" Glad that's what she noticed...

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Mel Johnson

That's what I like about kids. They see right through the faintly silly straight to the ludicrous. And say so. :o

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Daughter called tonight after performance and said she enjoyed it , a contrast to her classical exposure. She was unphased about the nudity. She was tired from the full day so the conversation on artistic value will have to wait for the long ride home. I'll post any "aha's"

after she returns. I'm wondering if growing up with three males in the house has made it a non-novel event ? Just a thought...

sqmca, dd is in level 3 and youngest suite. I'll ask her if she knows anyone who's celebrated a birthday lately.

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To add my 2 cents from a European perspective: I guess before ds got into dancing and we went together to see a whole load of more modern ballet and contemporary wroks that I would never have previously gone to see, I might have been more taken aback by nudity and some of the extreme costumes that we saw. So I think the factors that affect one's views on this are: the amount of exposure to this kind of work, and the age and personality of the child. However, when the dk gets to the stage where they know they want a professional career, then I think they have to know what's out there. This is part of the theatre world after all. I remember ds being very worried about wearing tights in a class full of girls! Somewhere over the last 5 years, he has moved from being worried about that to viewing with equanimity the thought of having to wear various revealing cotimes as a professional. I don't say he's looking forward to it, but it's not worrying him either. There have got to be steps on the way from A to B, and going to see a performance such as you describe has surely got to be one of them.

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I take my children -- 11 and 9 -- to a variety of performances quite regularly. They know how to behave in the theater and mostly what to expect. A few programs have contained nudity. But I'm more concerned about adult thematic material then I am about nudity, in particular, nudity in dance because it almost always serves the work.


A recent experience was eye-opening for me about what our children see and notice and what they don't. The European modern dance program had two pieces with either partial or full-frontal nudity. In the first, my son was incredibly uncomfortable. The piece in question was a duet and the male dancer disrobed on stage then proceeded to play a game of hide-and-seek of sorts, covering the private parts in question with lunges, his hands and his partner, which ultimately made the nudity all the more obvious. Clearly the choreographer's point. My son was quite perturbed about this and didn't want to discuss it at all. My daughter wasn't bothered.


The second piece with nudity that evening was a contemporary version of Rite of Spring. The nudity was female and was well-meshed into the thematic and movement material of the entire work. After, I asked my son what he thought of the nudity in that piece. He (and my daughter) hadn't even noticed. Granted the lighting was darker and more atmospheric, but clearly the nudity served the work and wasn't disturbing or even noticeable.


Finally, a word on adult and hard-to-discuss-with-our-children themes. My daughter is a budding Broadway baby and though I didn't take my kids to see The Producers when it first opened, on its national tour this year the whole family saw it. That was a show that I found problematic: How do I explain to my kids that it's okay to laugh about Hitler, when in the Jewish parochial school they attend they study the holocaust and meet their friends' grandparents with numbered tattoos on their arms. Their own grandparents had survivor stories. The ideas are difficult enough to grapple with as adults, for kids .... well.... So we talked about The Producers for weeks in advance. My kids know about Hitler, they know about the Holocaust. Now they know that sometimes, only sometimes, it's okay to make light of something deadly serious. I'm still not sure what exactly sank in. Amid the glitz and shtick and glamour of the show it gets really hard to explain why only in America and only by Mel Brooks could such a show be created and become a runaway hit.


And that doesn't begin to deal with the highly exaggerated stereotypes of Jews, Germans, gays, etc. that Brooks's comedy thrives on. Through my own laughter I kept trying to read my son's reaction to the Gay relationships and exaggerated portrayals. They know about Gay marriage, but this is their first experience with over-to-top gay stereotypes (No, they don't see sitcom TV like Will and Grace.).


It's been a real education for me in how to present adult ideas at a level they can understand. See me in ten years and I'll let you know what my kids' therapy bills are like!

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