Naked ballet may seem like a ridiculous idea, but many people enjoy this form of dance. Choreographers, dancers, fans and critics all have strong opinions both for and against the idea.
Why Create Naked Ballet?
The whole art of dance is a celebration of the ability, shape and form of the human body. Considering the skin-tight outfits that dancers usually wear it would seem a very small step to simply move to nudity, to show the skin of the dancers and not have the lines concealed in any way.
Natural Nude Scenes
Some choreographers even argue that clothing does not make any sense in some dances. During the bedroom scene of Romeo and Juliet, for example, it is more realistic for the lovers who have just been in bed to be portrayed nude. Rite of Spring, with its blatant celebration of sexuality, has often been held up as a ballet that would be more artistically accurate if portions of it were performed by nude dancers. Often the male dancers are actually wearing dance belts, as close to nude as most dancers ever get.
Other choreographers and dancers use nudity as a way to attempt to challenge or move beyond prudish attitudes, such as La Pudeur des Icebergs by Daniel Leveille Danse. The objective is, according to the creator, ''.. to look past the nudity and focus on the movements." When asked about using naked ballet dancers in one of his pieces, director Yu Neng Sheng of Taiwan defended it by saying it was "artistic" rather than "pornographic" simply due to the stage lighting.
Companies that Perform in the Nude
If you are interested in seeing a nude dance performance for yourself, visit any of these companies for information on when they may be coming to your area.
- Pilobolus dance company has been pioneering imaginative and athletic dance forms for over 40 years, including some work done in the nude.
- Daniel Leveille Danse is a Canadian company which practices nearly entirely in the nude.
- The Batsheva Dance Company has presented some performances in the United States which have been done with nude scenes, including Romeo and Juliet.
- The Texas Ballet Theater has also begun incorporating some nude performances, many of which have sold out within days of tickets going on sale.
Objections to the Naked Form
In spite of honored choreographers such as Bob Fosse and Li Chiao-Ping who have used nudity to enhance their work, many people object to naked ballet, and in fact nudity in dance overall.
Often, the same people who are enthusiastic about the beauty of the arch of the foot recoil in horror at the idea of a man's genitals being visible on the stage. While sheer leotards covering and even emphasizing the curve of the breast is fine, there is as much furor and uproar about an actual naked chest as there was about a highly visible wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show.
While some of these arguments come down to a simple matter of personal taste, the critics do point out that any dance done in the nude is most likely going to distract from the meaning of the movement. In other words, regardless of how unselfconscious, dignified and beautiful the setting, dancers and moves are, the audience is going to have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get past the cultural discomfort of seeing body parts they don't normally see.
Unlike other fine arts such as painting and sculpture, where nudity has been able to divorce itself from the automatic implication of sexuality, naked ballet and other dances are still considered by many to be lewd and sensationalistic. Naked ballet is a shocking idea; due to the movement vocabulary - as some critics pointed out on the Ballet Talk website - a ballerina doing an arabesque and turning would be "flashing" the audience her genitalia. Proponents of naked ballet might argue that that is precisely the point, that there is no logic to the idea that one part of the body is more sacred or profane than any other.
There are also some simply practical considerations to naked ballet. For example, it is impossible to dance pointe without special shoes, and a dancer wearing those shoes would not be able to maintain any semblance of "purity" in her nude state. Wearing ballet leotards hides and unifies the various imperfections of the human body, lending the choreographers, lighting designers and other artistic staff (especially the costume designers) more control and a wider range of creative choices in their work.
A Progressive Art Form
Naked ballet may, in the future, be judged purely on the basis of its merit as movement. For now it will continue to be unusual and challenging for audiences and performers alike. Keep an open mind if you attend a performance with scenes in the nude; you may discover just what the artists and directors have been trying to convey.