MARILYN PENN: THE NAKED TRUTH ****
The Naked Truth
Shall we pretend that when the Sunday Times Arts Section blasts us with a review of dancers inserting dildos in their anuses, their reviewer is simply commenting on what is out there in the zeitgeist? Alistair Macaulay cites this along with several other examples of choreographed anal sex as examples of “exposed flesh in dance…opening up new areas of thought and feeling.” They are included in a critique entitled “Nakedness in Dance, Taken to Extremes” that was the lead article with accompanying photographs in the Aug 19th Sunday Times. Another dance cited had the male dancer bend over from the waist exposing the inner portion of his backside and a rear view of his genitals to the captive audience. As if to prove that this attempt to epater le bourgeois and to simultaneously under-react to the politics of gay choreography is just one of many phenomena in the dance world, Macaulay ends with a discussion of the cataclysmic effect of removing ballerina’s tights from classical ballet: “the look of the bare leg drastically changes the entire aesthetics of the form. Muscular details of thigh, knee, calf become suddenly distracting.” Hmmm - that bare ballerina leg becomes a game changer while the graphic depiction of uncommon sexual acts doesn’t raise the critic’s temperature: “Even for those of us who have now seen a great many naked bodies onstage, the bent-over rear view of Mr. Weinert in “Gobbledygook” was something new. It was not, however, a problem. Though I didn’t much admire the work as a whole, that use of nakedness made Mr. Weinert memorably vulnerable.”
When the Times editorial policy of normalizing gay sex and lifestyle capture other sections of the paper, making the critic known for his pejorative comments regarding female dancers’ weight and body types unwilling to recoil from the heavy-handed antithesis of dance as an abstraction – you know you are reading agit-prop. Mr. Macaulay can see the distraction in the musculature of the bare leg but has no problem with insertion of dildos or adolescent mooning of the audience. On the one hand, he grasps that dancers “deploy lines, positions and phrasing so that they too may project an image of the body as perfectly harmonious and flawless” – on the other hand he is admiring of “one moment of tender cheek-to-cheek contact (involving) a cheek of one man’s face and a cheek of the other’s buttock.” Would he be as tolerant and non-judgmental of a nude ballerina inserting a Tampax onstage?
The genius of Fred Astaire was his ability to transform a partnered dance into an emotional and rapturous metaphor of romance, passion, humor, regret, longing, exhileration, love and almost any other emotion known to man. The two dancers were always fully clothed, there was no heavy breathing or inappropriate touching, yet the audience was always swept up in the intimacy that was implied and the finesse that defines art. Sprezzatura was the renaissance ideal – to make art appear effortless. We are now in the backward age of shocking audiences with heavy-handed and literal depictions of acts and functions that normally remain private. How immature and unfortunate that choreographers should revert to the tools of pornographers instead of the more rigorous demands of their art form. And how duplicitous of the Times critic to select these productions for serious review and to pretend that their shock value was neither their primary purpose nor a deterrent to their valued consideration in the repertory of modern dance.
Comments are closed.