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Which offends? Her short dress or critic’s narrow view?
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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
August 14, 2011 - 9:52 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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By Anne Midgette, Published: August 12

Pianist Yuja Wang’s dress at a concert this month at the Hollywood Bowl has given rise to considerable attention.

Should critics review the dress? Should we comment on how classical stars look?

On the one hand, appearance has no bearing on how an artist sounds.

On the other hand, appearance sends a message. Christoph Eschenbach’s Nehru-style jackets are a deliberate step away from the tradition-bound formality of a conductor’s tails, and lots of younger conductors have followed suit, and it’s certainly fair to comment on that when it seems warranted.

And plenty of classical artists are now playing around, more and more deliberately, with the way they look.

There’s a third factor at play, though, when it comes to talking about women’s clothes in this field. Men have a uniform: They either don formal wear or daringly (sarcasm intended) eschew it.

Women do not have a comparable uniform, in part because women’s fashions are more varied and in part because women didn’t play a major role in classical performance in the years when these traditions were being codified. Yes, there were a handful of soloists. But for years, there were few women (if any) in major symphony orchestras, and virtually no female conductors. Female orchestra members and conductors still have to contend with the issue of what they should be wearing on a regular basis.

The criticism of women’s clothing onstage has been a red flag for me ever since Eve Queler said that when she started conducting in the late 1960s, her clothing so dominated her reviews that one critic complained that a zipper glinting on the back of her evening gown was distracting. This is obvious sexism. Unfortunately, the tenor of the discussion of women’s attire in this field has retained more than a hint of this sexist tone ever since.

What “should” women wear on the concert stage? What is “appropriate”? A general rule of thumb appears to be that if it’s sexy, it’s probably not good — indeed, it almost automatically falls into the realm of cheesy pop-style classical crossover. And if it’s revealing, it’s worthy of a lot of comment.

My particular beef is with Mark Swed in the Los Angeles Times, who was evidently shocked, or titillated, by the dress Wang wore for her Hollywood Bowl appearance Aug. 3.

“Her dress Tuesday was so short and tight,” he wrote, “that had there been any less of it, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict admission to any music lover under 18 not accompanied by an adult. Had her heels been any higher, walking, to say nothing of her sensitive pedaling, would have been unfeasible.”

This review and the dress that inspired it have prompted several responses, including a post on the blog Life’s a Pitch that questions whether Wang should wear such a dress and equates her attire with the fashion choices of Lady Gaga and Madonna.

Let’s have a reality check for a minute. Yes, the dress is short, tight and revealing. But in the real world — the world outside classical music’s bubble — this is not unusual attire for a young rising starlet in the public eye.

For the sake of comparison — or education — go to the blog Tom and Lorenzo to observe what other young women about Yuja Wang’s age wore at a Hollywood event that took place a few days after Wang’s concert. You can criticize these women for their fashion choices. You can like or dislike what they’re wearing. But these dresses and shoes are not inherently shocking — let alone a cause for restricting admission for those younger than 18. (Some of the women might be younger than 18 themselves.)

Yuja Wang is simply working with designers, the way that other attractive stars her age do — and the way that plenty of opera divas always have, from Renee Fleming’s specially designed gowns by John Galliano, Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld for her Metropolitan Opera opening in 2008 to Anna Netrebko’s sometimes more unfortunate but often equally revealing options. This field should at least recognize this, rather than drawing up our skirts in horror as if she’s doing something patently unusual.

To Swed’s credit, his review went on to praise Wang’s playing. But he, and all of us, should understand that, rather than shutting the doors to the under-18 set, Wang’s manner (she’s a refreshingly normal, down-to-earth young woman) and attire — as well as her remarkable talent — represent some of the best chances we have of getting those under-18-year-olds into the concert hall to begin with.

This article originally appeared on Anne Midgette’s blog The Classical Beat, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/

classical-beat, The Washington Post’s one-stop online source for classical music news, reviews and opinions.

via Which offends? Her short dress or critic’s narrow view? - The Washington Post.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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August 14, 2011 - 10:45 pm
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Advertising agencies in this country have become aware of just how powerful packaging can be.  I may pay more for less oatmeal, for instance, but the box is prettier.  They want to create an advantage for their product. 

Entertainment stars and managers also want to differentiate their product by any sensational means available.  If I were the young ladies manager I might suggest she perform in a bikini.  Why not?

Packaging is one of our major landfill problems and that includes a wide variety of garbage.

coffee2

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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myguitarnow
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August 14, 2011 - 10:57 pm
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Nothing shocking coming from a person that has been to the Hollywood Bowl for many different styles of music (me). I think she is beautiful and very talented. Why not show off when you're on the stage? I find it upsetting that there is still middle eastern countries that don''t even let their woman out of the house unless her face is covered up. GOD! We''re all beautiful people, let us show off what we have positive to give to this world.

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Sofia Leo
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August 15, 2011 - 12:23 am
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The Classical Music World is so steeped in centuries of "tradition" that there is little room for women to be there, let alone a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress, especially if she has real talent, so I'm not a bit surprised by the uproar. OTOH, any press is good press, right?

Whenever I hear a comment from a (chauvinist) man about how wonderful it is to be a woman in this day and age and how we have all the "advantages" I just want to scream. I've worked in a male dominated industry (engineering) for over 20 years, and let me tell you, the world is still very much ruled by rich white dudes...

And I won't get started on that rant.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
August 15, 2011 - 8:33 am
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You're right. I'm really happy I'm not a woman from that perspective. However, it is often women who complain about the clothes and not the men from my experience.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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August 15, 2011 - 9:02 am
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Any exhibitionism in classical music is only an attempt to attract attention in the midst of a seriously ill art form.

We WILL one day see the Bach version of "Lady Gaga". (can't wait)

 

pink-violin-girl

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David Burns
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August 16, 2011 - 12:05 am
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Call me a sexist pig. I like it, why would you cover up legs like those?

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pky
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August 16, 2011 - 12:34 am
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1. if she is an ice skater or in other profession, like movie star, the critics would have been different.

2. When critics come from a woman, jealousy might have been involved.

3. if there's a dress code for all the female musicians, most men, if not all, would want them to dress like YuJa Wang, and most, if not all, women would want them to dress in black suits like men -- wrap them up.

4. this is a free world, so YuJa Wang could dress in fashion if she likes it and enjoys the attention (negative and positive). As long as she plays well, and moves freely in that outfit, and feels comfy in that outfit, gives her audiences some fresh looks, attracts some attention, -ve or +ve,  it is her business:)

 

Bravo, YuJa Wang!

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David Burns
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August 16, 2011 - 12:43 am
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As far as women in the workplace. I have had only one female boss my whole working career. I compare every other boss to her, and they all come up short. Most women I have worked with are real team players, hard working, have great ideas, and most of them get treated like crap. They don't get the same pay, they don't get credit for ideas or innovations, they get hit on all day, or dismissed because they are women. Most of the male co-workers are very threatened by a female in the male dominated field I work in. Most men are not team players, always trying to make the other guy look bad. So far I have known only two female lineman, and I have been doing this for25 years in lots of areas of the country. I have met more female firemen in one day!

 

Dave

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pky
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August 16, 2011 - 1:05 am
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David,

As a woman, I thank you for speaking up for women!

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Robyn.fnq
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August 16, 2011 - 8:49 pm
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Well said everyone, and I loved the dress.

Perhaps, as usual, there is jealousy from the female critics, and males usually feel a little threatened by a powerful woman.

Bring on equality and individualism (that's not meant as an oxymoron).

thumbs-up

If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right.

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lenasv.
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August 27, 2011 - 5:26 am
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Well, I never myself have cared how classical musicians dress since it has always been about playing. When it came my own playing, i thought i never get any gigs because even if i might be a bit better than other violinists in the amateur orchestra, i still dont have high enough level to get any gigs, so they will pick winds for that rather.

But recently I realized how a super beautiful girl from my orchestra that never have occurred to me as any competition (there were others I considered much better) suddenly not only got all the paid gigs but also solo recitals unlike me. Our concerts (where we always played for free) they cancelled all of them for the fall. I have tried listening and compare, and I still would not trade anything in my own playing (tone, intonation, technique, phrasing, dynamics) with her, and yet she got the gigs and her own public recital. Either she has some playing quality that is beyond my skills to understand or perceive, or she got picked simply because she was more liked by the man in charge. I dont know. Yes, I am a bit bitter.

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Fiddlerman
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August 27, 2011 - 6:36 pm
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That's terrible Lena and not fair. Hope you meet the right people in the future who will hire you for the right reasons and not hire someone else for the wrong reasons.  I can tell you that I have sat with musicians that have no business getting paid for what they do. Also, even worse in my opinion, some that only do it for the money and have no interest in doing a better job.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Oliver
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August 30, 2011 - 9:09 am
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My early learning experience included attending the concerts of three different community orchestras but I also knew three of the musicians who played all three orchestras.  One of them was an officer in one group. My knowledge of "politics"   was therefore more than known to the general public.  Given this insight I decided never to join a community orchestra.  Never did.

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gStretch
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August 30, 2011 - 8:22 pm
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Performers, men or women, should dress modestly.  Clothing that would distract from the performance is not appropriate.  Yes guys do have a standard such as a suit but its not too much to ask for the ladies to wear a modest dress.  I shouldn't have to try and keep my thoughts on the music instead of the girl performing.  I had to close my eyes once to focus on the music.

-g

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Fiddlerman
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August 31, 2011 - 3:59 am
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I guess that would depend on whether or not you are a good multi-tasker.

Some people do get distracted while others can enjoy, or not enjoy several things at the same time.

By the same token, this is not a great big problem in the classical world since there are extremely few that dress this way.

I do remember once when we had a woman violin soloist that wore a sleeveless dress standing only a few meters from me with sweat drops dripping off of her elbow from her underarm to a puddle on the stage floor. I found that very distracting but felt sorry for her rather than judged her. The fact is I don't know if it would have been better for her to have a sleeve to soak up the perspiration or not. She may be wearing the sleeveless dress to stay cool or to not show the wet spot that she would surely have under her arms.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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lenasv.
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It is so difficult sometimes to know what one does wrong. If I would know that the person who gets picked has better technique than me, I will look up to this person and try to improve what is bad on me to reach her or his level. It can be extremely stimulating for learning to compete a bit with somebody. If I know this person has the most sensitive pianissimo that makes the heart bump, I would focus on creating my own pianissimo. But when I cannot detect anything, I can only ask myself: is there an important musical aspect I have totally missed? Something where I completely fail, because it has never occurred to me that it is an important part? Something where my musicality is too limited to notice and therefore I am blind? The idea of being blind is scary...

Oliver...Please tell us a bit more about the politics in orchestras!! I really would love to know more. I have always wondered and never understood.

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Oliver
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August 31, 2011 - 9:12 am
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I would only dare generalize in order to protect individuals who might be involved but it was pretty much what might be expected, tempestuous love affairs, bending of policy to favor relatives of orchestra officers, unfortunate damage to a competitors instrument, etc.  My favorite scene was a second chair violinist who often showed up early and took a chair in the first violin row.  When later chased, the explanation was "I didn't think you were coming!"  roflroflrofl

 

coffee2

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Fiddlerman
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August 31, 2011 - 9:23 am
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"Orchestra Politics", we could probably fill a large section just discussing this. I have stories too but will refrain from telling them to protect the guilty. LOL

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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GennaLea
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August 31, 2011 - 10:29 pm
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Oliver said:

My favorite scene was a second chair violinist who often showed up early and took a chair in the first violin row.  When later chased, the explanation was "I didn't think you were coming!"  roflroflrofl

 

coffee2

That is just too much! roflThanks for making my night. LOL

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