The Men: Fashion Underwear Nude Artwork: by Michael Taggart Photography

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An activist protest occurred in May , in the centre of Athens, Greece. The site of these incidents also brings to mind that nudity has been an integral part in the arts for thousands of years, as an expression of the freedom of humankind. Beyond the boundaries of political activism, an explosion of nakedness has also been present in the performing arts, and particularly in dance. But how can we interpret this increasing display of bare bodies in contemporary dance? By returning to the body, free from the symbolism of clothing and of moral codes, dancers and choreographers seem to be exploring the sense of being human.

And how do different audiences perceive the sense of intimacy that nudity attaches to performance? Although nudity signifies our purest form of existence, it remains a controversial issue in the arts and in society at large. Despite the public discomfort with the inevitable sexualization of nudity, the living body in dance, like in no other art, can change the way we think about the relation between dance and the political Franko The word political applies to dance pieces that deal with questions of power, hierarchies, law and justice, inclusions and exclusions.

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Tracing the history of the naked body in the past century, Isadora Duncan, in an era still dominated by Victorian morals, dared to expose her breasts in some of her dances. But her idea to combine the body as flesh with the inner symbolic notion of the soul, shifted the image of the female body away from eroticism.

Numerous paintings as well as photographs of thousands of people featuring naked in an ecstatic dance, denote the central position of the body to the creation of a modern, liberated identity. The potential of the naked body to signify primal emotion played a major role against social and sexual conventions in German Expressionism as well as in Ausdruckstanz. Although expressionist dance was denigrated by the Nazi regime as a degenerate art, the naked body was nonetheless exploited as a tool of propaganda. Leni Riefenstahl in Olympia , the documentary for the Berlin Olympics, often shows close-ups of naked dancers male and female.

They indicate her appreciation of the human body, but also illustrate the Nazi notion of the perfect Aryan body, associated with the Greek classical ideal of beauty. By the midth century, Mary Wigman, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham and Merce Cunnigham had developed virtuosity and formalism in their dances, often using decorative sets and costumes. Despite the significance of their work in the renovation of modern dance, they were skeptical about choreography which had an element of nudity. In the s, the radical shift from modernism to postmodernism in the arts marked a return to the body—both in the physical and the performative sense.

In the postmodern era, choreographers, performance artists and visual artists, by returning to their own—sometimes unclothed—bodies, brought to the foreground the earlier repressed conception of selfhood. Numerous choreographers relied on their physical presence, without letting it become a mere object for the viewer. According to Ramsey Burt, the leaders of the Judson Dance Theater created work that aimed at transcending the narcissistic voyeuristic duality of doer and looker Burt French choreographer Anne Collod worked with Halprin and Morton Subotnick, who had composed the score, to revive the piece.

While at the beginning of the performance, our gaze was captured by the flesh of the dancers, shortly afterwards we were not even noticing that they were naked. The premier of Parades and Changes in Sweden, where people were accustomed to nudity, hardly caused a negative reaction. The piece was performed by six naked dancers with American flags tied around their necks. Their naked bodies expressed political concerns, supported by the long equation of nakedness and freedom.

Schneeman, a pioneer of performance art, associated with both the Fluxus movement and Judson Dance Theater, is known for her shocking erotic performances and films. In the Interior Scroll , she slowly extracted a paper scroll from her vagina and started reading it. The text, which was part-poem, part-manifesto, signified that she used her body mythical or human to examine female sensuality with the possibility of political and personal liberation from predominantly oppressive social and aesthetic conventions Toepfer The sexual revolution of the s did not last long.

However, American choreographers continue to work under the enduring influence of postmodernism. Some artists expressed issues with reference to their identity as female, male, heterosexual, homosexual, white, black, etc. In Europe, Pina Baucsh incorporated semi-nudity and cross-dressing for men in her legendary work for the Tanztheater Wuppertal, interpreted as a manifesto for a feminist aesthetic.

Notable choreographers of the period formed a multidisciplinary context that included text, music, set and costume design, the use of multimedia and technology. Around the early s, in the context of contemporary dance, particularly in Europe, a recurrence of issues about the body began, which could be traced back to the postmodern experiments of the s. Accompanying this reduction in dance is a stripping of the dancing body itself. Naked bodies are ever more present on European stages. Lepecki further notes that, at the end of the s, audiences in Europe were witnessing the emergence of a new generation of choreographers whose work denied theatrics and brought them closer to performance art.

Nearly two decades after the emergence of conceptual dance, it seems that there is a new wave of nudity in avant-garde dance performances.

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Gia Kourlas, in her review for The New York Times , claims that in many recent performances the skin has practically taken the place of costume. In her view, this resurgence of nudity is not rooted in the sexual liberation of the s or the political defiance of the s. What can be disturbing for viewers today?

Having seen many performances in which nudity is a dominant feature, we believe that it is not nakedness that causes moral concerns. Any discussion about the naked body and its difference from the clothed body cannot be isolated from its context. We will discuss these issues through a brief description of certain performances that present the body in a dialogic, dynamic relationship with its environment.

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At the beginning of the performance, nine male and nine female naked dancers emerge from darkness and walk up and down the stage for half-an-hour. While the dancers remained naked throughout the performance, they unexpectedly entered clothed for the final applause. It aims for catharsis by building from ordered pacing to wild flailing. The dancers walk for perhaps half an hour before allowing variation to creep in—a quirked elbow, a faster turn. They step into anguished poses, as if modelling for a bad painting. Londoners have seen many nude performances, including those of Michael Clark, who, back in the s, exposed his buttocks and used dildos on stage to provoke the audience.

If there was a negative perception, this would effectively be related to choreographic structures and corporeal movements, as well as to the way that the audience can be taken into a more intimate relation with their body and the world. The piece has strong intimations of the work of Pina Baucsh, to whom it was dedicated. At the beginning of the performance, at the International Dance Festival of Kalamata, in Greece, the dancers were sitting among the audience.

Then, one-by-one, they climbed onto the stage, stripped to their underwear, folded their clothes, put them on the ground, covered their bodies with large orange blankets, and just stood there waiting for their individual action-moments. The orange blankets wrapped around the semi-naked bodies can be regarded as possessing a semiotic hidden meaning.

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The dancers created unique movements spasms, convulsions, ticks that alternated with controlled and synchronized dance vocabulary. At the close of the performance the dancers put their clothes back on and returned to their seats among the audience. Moving between past and present, or between the theatrical space and the audience, are not the only dualisms in Out of Context. In chaos and order, animalism and classical harmony, outer dysfunction and inner transcendence.

In any sincere appraisal of the human condition, he seems to be saying that both must be embraced.

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For Hildegard De Vuyst, the dramaturge of the piece, Out of Context gradually turned into a trip to memory:. A dive into the caverns of human existence in search of the roots of childhood and prehistory. Of something in between man and animal, a kind of harmony that passes by or precedes the duality of beauty and ugliness, good and evil, me and you, individual and community.

The interplay between the exposed and covered body, a possibility of revealing it that never happens, can be associated with various sexual, corporeal meanings.

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  5. By means of all these dichotomies, Platel goes under the skin, to the essence of our humanity. On March , when the visitors reached the sixth-floor studio at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, they saw a landscape of earth, leaves, sticks, and black feathers. Looking more attentively they also saw a man and a woman, both naked, lying side by side in darkness under the sound of dripping water somewhere behind them.

    The white powder covering the surface of their bodies creates a distancing effect between their flesh and the audience.

    In some way, it functions like clothing that separates them from the rest of the world. In their dances, Eiko and Koma usually present awesome cycles and processes from nature in which all beings are caught up. Like Noh and Japanese butoh, the works of Eiko and Koma unfold slowly. Even though many butoh performances display an obsession with the dark sides of the human body, especially its raw sexuality, the metaphysical images in Naked are completely desexualized.

    Nakedness here rather encourages viewers to meditate on the mortality and ephemerality of the human body. At the beginning of the performance, the dancers climb up on a three-level podium positioned center stage with the audience sitting around it. After some warm-up movements, they take off their sweatpants, exposing the naked lower part of their bodies. Their upper part remains covered by a white T-shirt. While dancers usually perform on a horizontal plane that allows physical and visual contact between them, here the use of the three small stages on a vertical plane places the dancers in complete isolation.

    They are, therefore, forced to establish contact by hearing and sensing the vibrations of the metal structure, especially when their bodies collapse. In contrast to the heaviness of the apparatus, three white balloons that serve as lamps float in the two corners of the space, illuminating the scene or casting it into darkness.

    Could it be that the dancers might fall from the structure? Perhaps the piece might affect us to the point of restructuring our experience of perceiving and reacting? They cannot see everything as the verticality of the structure exceeds the eye level. While you think you see everything, you see nothing, because the dancers are so utterly detached, so elsewhere. The stage space is lit by three floating globes, like dying moons. Since the early s, Charmatz has been actively engaged in the exploration of the sentient and the sensual body, and how it engages with the world around it. All his work shows an interest in exploring questions of modes of perceptions and questions of embodiment.

    His provocative language of movement and dramaturgical strategies puts constant pressure on prevailing ideals of the visible body.