Body Heat: Five American Director-Choreographers Break Down the Steps That Lead to Sex, Love, Intimacy and Erotic Tension. (Women on Eroticism)

By Gener, Randy | American Theatre, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Body Heat: Five American Director-Choreographers Break Down the Steps That Lead to Sex, Love, Intimacy and Erotic Tension. (Women on Eroticism)


Gener, Randy, American Theatre


One of the defining aspects of theatrical dance is its power to communicate a complex set of human emotions through the body. But what do director-choreographers look for when they attempt to depict sexual desire through dance? In dance terms, is eroticism the same as sensuality? Is it about love or lust? Is it fast or slow? Does it leap high, or does it slink across the floor? Does it even move? How is dance intimately connected to sex and sexuality? -R.G.

DEBBIE ALLEN

I don't think of dancing as being always innately connected to sex. I think of dancing as being connected with freedom and breaking the boundaries of time and space. Whether you're a classical ballerina or an Alvin Ailey dancer, to dance is ultimately to be so free--to know no limits.

I can see how you would relate dance to sexuality and sensuality, especially since the human body is on display. More often than not, dancers don't wear a lot of clothes, and the things that we do with our hands, feet and other parts of the body do express passion and sensuality. But historically the ritual of dance was always connected to so many rites of passages, like the rites of manhood or womanhood, or the preparation for war. It's a very spiritual thing to dance. It's a way of communicating powerful emotions through the body, about being connected to the whole concept of the spiritual--you're dealing with sensuality that is above and beyond.

The whole idea of it [eroticism] is such a fantasy. It is unique to every person. As an artist, I don't know that you can make rules about it, so people write books about it, and it's a popular topic of discussion, as it is here. But it's so individual: How you do you like your tea? How do you like your milk? Do you even drink milk? What books do you read? There are female dancers who are as powerful as any man, and there are men who are soft and sensual.

When staging a dance driven by sexual desire, it has to do with the choreographer and the intent of the piece. It has to do with interpretation. In fact, critics often say things about a dance that have nothing to do with what I am trying to do--it's how people see it. The moment you see beautiful bodies that are scantily clad, some people immediately think of sex. That's where some people's minds go to, whether you want them to or not.

As a director-choreographer, I just have to let the dance flow. Every audience member gets what he or she gets out of what you're doing. You can't dictate it. I just did a children's play, Pearl, my adaptation of Snow White, at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. In it, Snow White is a 17-year-old black girl who has the whitest teeth this side of the Mississippi. I created "Dwones," a cross between dwarf and clowns. There were these little hot numbers in the show, and I taught little kids, who ranged from 6 to 18, how to play the parts. During the show's run, there were people dancing in the aisles. But I got a letter from one man who said that I was abusing the sexuality of young children. He is, of course, allowed his opinion, but that's one voice against thousands of people who were cheering. I just felt that that man had been under the rock. This is how kids dance today, the whole hip-hop phenomenon. So you never know what's considered sexual: It's not always the intention of a choreographer to be sexy or sensual.

I think sexuality is a very godly thing. It's one of God's greatest creations. We become creators when we procreate, when we give life. It's one of the most spiritual things we do on the planet.

Debbie Allen is founder and artistic director of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Culver City, Calif In April, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., will present Brothers of the Knight, her musical adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," with a score by James Ingram.

MARTHA CLARKE

My work deals with the issues of sensuality, eroticism, repression, sexual fantasy and obsession. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Body Heat: Five American Director-Choreographers Break Down the Steps That Lead to Sex, Love, Intimacy and Erotic Tension. (Women on Eroticism)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.