Ballexploitation

American Ballet Theatre, frantic to sell tickets to its season at the Metropolitan Opera House (through June 28), has embarked on an ad campaign that goes beyond the foolish to the offensive. One of its photos features a ballerina seemingly nude but for her pointe shoes. Her head is bowed so that she's faceless. Her arms are wrapped across her torso, her torso bent over her thighs, as if she's shielding her breasts and genitals. The image suggests sexual violation and shame —simultaneously, like much fashion photography, glamorizing them. (The ostensible equal-opportunity shot given to a buff male chest and belly is just locker-room pretty.) A panoramic view of ABT's stars in costume—haplessly derived from an unforgettable Irving Penn photograph—extends the tawdriness of the campaign. It's captioned, "They tear apart families, turn women into animals and poison heaven." Onward and upward with the arts!

Killing two birds with one stone, Dr. Glory van Scott, veteran dancer turned producer, masterminded a tribute to veteran choreographer Fred Benjamin that also promoted her own current project, NY Dance Divas (Symphony Space, April 13). Half the program was devoted to Benjamin's dances, sensationally performed by the Alpha Omega Dance Company, Philadanco, and, of course, the Fred Benjamin Dance Company. Benjamin's Ailey-esque mix of jazz, modern dance, and ballet, used to depict easily recognizable sentiments and situations, is happily studded with unique touches, some witty, some poetic. The Divas, whose personnel change with each program, are artists with long, illustrious careers behind them. Scott herself, a smart, sexy, self-confident beauty, performed at the Benjamin celebration, along with Loretta Abbott, a mistress of wry, subtle timing, and Dyane Harvey, who looks and moves like a primordial earth goddess. Benjamin, recovering from serious illness, is lucky to have them on his side.

 
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