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Flash Forum, 5-25: Corpus Displayum
A Dialogue on the Power of Sex

By Asimina Chremos
& Paul Ben-Itzak

From: Paul Ben-Itzak
Sent: Sunday, May 21, 2000 1:10 PM
To: Asimina Chremos
Subject: 58 Group

Howdy,

Just now got a chance to re-read your report on the 58 Group (Flash Review 3, 5-19: The 58 Group). I love it. I think the following part which you wrote especially sums up a major quandary for dance:

"What sexual responsibilities does Ginger Farley, choreographer of the 58 Group and former member of Hubbard Street Dance, have as she displays the bodies of dancers for the eyes of audience members? How do we as artists acknowledge and deal with the fucked-up sexual mores of our culture while promoting healthy and positive attitudes towards the human body, sex, and gender?"

I know dancers deal with this all the time; and I as a dance viewer, deal with the question. Put another way: Sure, I get off on seeing beautiful women performing on stage. But I don't think that's it alone; I've seen dances with beautiful women but sucky choreography, and this deficit ruined the appeal of the dance for me. I certainly didn't say, "Well, the choreography sucks, but so what, she's beautiful."

I also am aware, from dancer friends, that in much of the country the term dancer denotes something different than concert performer....

Anyway, Miss Mina, you provocative as always.

 

From: Asimina Chremos
To: Paul Ben-Itzak
Subject: 58 Group
Date: Sun, 21 May 2000 20:57:43 -0500

Thanks honey!! I do feel like this corpus displayum issue is a big one, that keeps dance a marginalized form.

 

From: Paul Ben-Itzak
Sent: Monday, May 22, 2000 2:51 a.m.
To: Asimina Chremos
Subject:: 58 Group

Hi honey I'm insomniac,

My feeling, from a spectator point of view anyway, is that there's a boundary which some choreographers/companies inevitably cross. In other words, body presentation and pure body beauty appeal is often going to be part of the mix and in some ways normal; where it gets out of hand, tho, is the exploitation type stuff that vamps on that to the degree it's the main attraction. The $64,000 question is, Where's that boundary?! Some might say that even the ballet tutus (the stiff ones which jut out from the waist) play into this, not even covering the butt as they don't...

 

From: Asimina Chremos
To: Paul Ben-Itzak
Subject: Ah yes, the tutu... mmmm
Date: Tue, 23 May 2000 10:55:34 -0500

Well Paul! This is a great dialogue. Here is a lengthy response, if you are insomniac again!!!

You say, "Where it gets out of hand, tho, is the exploitation type stuff that vamps on that to the degree it's the main attraction. The $64,000 question is, where's that boundary! "

I actually think it's OK if the "exploitation" is acknowledged all around and everyone knows what is going on and enjoying it. In my mind, the boundary of salacious bodily representation is one of consciousness. What drove me crazy about Ginger's show was that it was not presented as a feral skinshow; it was in many ways a conventional nice dance show for conventional nice people. There was a schizophrenia of pretty gender-appropriate dancing and wild, unpicturesque eroticism.

As regards Lauri's solo, the expectations of the audience were surprised in a way that was neither clever nor illuminating, just awkward. Judging by the dampened expressions of the dancers in the tinkling-bell entrada, I would say the dancers themselves were not comfortable or able to own up to the situation of their near-nudity in extreme proximity to their audience. Ginger had given them no emotional context to work with. They were neither sensual, nor fierce, nor sweet and innocent nor disgustingly devouring of space. They were cold and uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally.

It's a problem of not choreographing for the whole persons, body, mind, and spirit; a snafu of ignoring the power of sex.

Sex in ballet is a whole other kettle of fish than in modern dance, and I'd love to have that dialogue at length. There is a book I happen to be in, which Selene is reading now and that I need to read; that Sally Banes book "Dancing Women" addresses some of these issues.

I love tutus and I think they are very sexy! I keep threatening to have one made for me. And I use cheap recital tutus a lot in my own costuming. I have a spoken-word piece based on a true story that Lupe Serrano told me about a ballerina who repeatedly stained her costume with menstrual blood during a performance of "Swan Lake." Here is an excerpt; when I perform this I use the text as a loose score:

The Famous Ballerina was all dressed up in her white tutu that looked like a dinnerplate coming out from her hips, forming a plane separating her upper body from her lower body.

The Famous Ballerina was doing one of the famous parts of the ballet where the Swan meets her human lover, The Prince. He supported her in a deep penchee arabesque. She stood on one pointe, her long straight leg and extended foot describing a line of force directly into the molten center of the earth. Her other leg was reaching heavenward behind her, forcing her spine into a luscious arch. She was split, vertical line from toe on floor to toe in air. As the Prince rotated her slowly, all eyes in the audience appreciated the facets of her form. At one moment, all eyes gazed upon the underside of her tutu, the layers of tulle in diminishing concentric circles, a circle of circles divided by two legs, one satin toe pointing up and the other down. Many eyes were following the lines of the pointed toes along her slender ankles, along the shafts of her arrowlike legs, towards each other to that magic spot where the legs came together in the middle of the middlest circle, the bulls-eye, the collision of heaven and earth.

Right there, in the center of centers, there was a red spot. And it grew and grew.

 

(Editor's Note: What do YOU think about all this? E-mail paul@danceinsider.com.)

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