BY HOWARD POUSNER / AJC
Atlanta Ballet, which has increasingly blended bold contemporary choreography with classical dance in recent seasons, appears primed to take a leap of even greater boldness during this weekend’s “Modern Choreographic Voices” program.
Several male and female performers briefly will appear nude during portions of the final of three dances on the program, Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s “Secus.”
“Secus” will feature momentary frontal nudity by two male dancers and one female dancer as well as rear nudity by three female performers. With their costumes pulled down, they will be positioned on stage at an angle that should obscure at least frontal private parts, according to a ballet spokesperson.
“Modern Choreographic Voices,” also featuring dances by Alexei Ratmansky and Tara Lee, is to be performed four times Friday through Sunday at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.
The ballet’s web site includes this warning: “Parental discretion is advised. Modern Choreographic Voices contains partial nudity.”
The spokesperson said the dance company is planning to send a second precautionary email to ticket-holders on Friday.
The ballet’s home page isn’t exactly bashful in exposing the nakedness. A link below a banner ad for “Modern Choreographic Voices” includes the headline: “See what is sure to be one of the most talked about shows this month. Catch some skin with Atlanta Ballet!”
In a quieter fashion, Atlanta Ballet broke the nudity barrier during the 2013 “Modern Choreographic Voices” program, with Gina Patterson’s “I Am.” Discreet lighting made it hard for some audience members to tell the difference between nude dancers and those wearing flesh-colored costumes.
Atlanta Ballet artistic John McFall shrugged off the matter in an interview with artsatl.com before that performance. “Nudity is fine; we are born this way,” he said. “You could say nudity is an item in this city, but that’s why we have the arts — to stimulate, to be a little provocative.”
“Secus” is a fill-the-stage extravaganza performed barefoot by 16 dancers. It has been described by one of them, company member Nadia Mara, as “very animalistic and modern.”
Like Naharin’s “Minus 16” performed during “Modern Choreographic Voices” last year, it’s wired with his distinct “gaga” movement vocabulary that punctuates liquid beauty with explosive bursts.
“Secus,” a portion of the full-evening Naharin work “Three” (2005), has been danced with and without nudity by dance companies internationally.
“There’s no theme, just many suggested themes,” Naharin has said of “Secus,” which is said to translate from Latin as “This and not this, at the same time.”
“I look upon this dance as simply one more offering of the power of imagination,” the choreographer added. “I play with the borders, the limits. There is passion, extreme. … It is the pleasure of the moment.”
Naharin’s comments aside, some critics have offered different interpretations of “Secus”” meaning, at least one identifying allusions to the Holocaust in the dance by the Israeli choreographer.
The Atlanta Ballet spokesperson said the company did not receive complaints about the nakedness in Patterson’s “I Am” from the Cobb Energy audiences last year.
The “Catch some skin” link on its home page takes site visitors to an excerpt from a story in Dance Magazine’s April issue, “Naked Onstage: 5 Choreographers Who Use Nudity + What It’s Like to Bare It All.”
In the story, choreographer Marie Chouinard says, “The body is our basis. It’s our medium. The flesh brings you back to the body itself.” And Alexander Ekman adds, “I find nudity fascinating, and it’s sad that it’s so taboo, because it questions our whole existence.”
To read an interview with Atlanta Ballet dancer Nadia Mara previewing “Modern Choreographic Voices,” go to myajc.com (subscriber site).