Dancing nude has unseen advantages
Her dry cleaning bills are practically nonexistent. Shopping for clothes is never a problem, either.
But then again, in her line of work, performing naked, save for a pair of Manolo Blahnik stilettos and the occasional wig, rubber chicken, or household prop, London-based, Spanish choreographer-dancer, Maria La Ribot is not your typical ecdysiast.
In fact, La Ribot is not a stripper at all, but a highly acclaimed performer whose one-person shows have proved successful at international art galleries, theatres, dance festivals and live art and performance festivals throughout Europe.
Her works, Mas Distinguidas and Still Distinguished, a series of short solos running from 30 seconds to seven minutes, were recently given their US premieres at Highways Performance Space, a small Los Angeles venue. Created in 1997, the latter piece received the Spanish National Prize for Dance Interpretation in 2000.
Born in Madrid in 1962, La Ribot didn’t always perform nude. Nor did she refer to herself in diva terms: She added La before her surname, she says, as a joke. “It’s popular in Spain to put la before your name, or as a way to call your neighbour, but at the same time it’s a diva way to call someone. Like Maria Callas was La Callas. It works for me like this.”
What doesn’t work for the tall, reed-thin performer with the shock of orangish-red hair is performing in clothes.
After studying modern dance in France, Germany and New York, La Ribot returned to Spain where she co-directed a dance company, Bocanada. After three years, however, she became discouraged with the vicissitudes of collaborating with dancers, composers, choreographers and costumiers.
“One day I realised this way of work, I didn’t like,” recalled La Ribot. “I stop the company completely.
I was trying to look for another language, another way to work in dance. That’s when I put La in front of my name and started to work alone, naked, in silence.”
The first time La Ribot actually performed in the buff was in 1993 at Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun Festival in New York. She began the piece, appropriately called Striptease, wearing 44 pieces of clothing, including seven pairs of underwear, before eventually baring all.
She likes fashion, she says, but doesn’t care to shop.
“Being naked is easy,” she said. “It’s natural for an artist to work with the thing she knows. It’s part of my material, naked bodies. It’s like an object, or an instrument.”
Striptease evolved into the Distinguished, pieces, an homage to composer Erik Satie’s “Three distinguished waltzes of a disgusted dandy”.
During a performance, confronting her audience with a poker-faced, unblinking stare, La Ribot might implore, “Meditate for one minute,” looking away only to check the time. —Reuters