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Culture

Sex Sells, But Also Disappoints

The debut piece of the Berlin Komische Oper's new choreographer, Blanca Li, raises eyebrows with its provocative ad campaign. But some find "The Minotaur's Dream" less erotic than promised.

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"Eroticism of the dullest and most disheartening kind"

Bare breasts are nothing new in Germany’s advertising landscape.

The country’s largest-circulating daily runs a picture of a bare-bosomed beauty on its front page every day. Naked women appear on the front of national newsmagazines and in hundreds of ad campaigns for anything from cigarettes to beer.

But one of the most recent, for Spanish-born Blanca Li’s new ballet at Berlin’s Komische Oper (Comic Opera), had piqued the interest of more than just a few subway riders and pedestrians.

The campaign showed male and female dancers in mid-performance wrapped in what look like tight-fitting strips of gauze, designed by fashion designer Eric Bergére.

Most of the female dancers were topless, something that led people to conclude that the show would be an erotic, scandalous delight – something many had expected from Li, who took over dance direction at the Oper in September 2001.

Traum des Minotaurus

Wanting to "surprise people"

The 38-year-old has appeared as a drag queen in the French movie "Pagelle," has Hip Hop, Flamenco and ballet productions on her resume and was brought in to rejuvenate the Oper.

She has let herself be photographed nude, most recently by a Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung photographer, and in between dancing engagements, has run a string of successful nightclubs, one of them in Paris’ red light district.

"I want to surprise people," in Berlin, she said upon her arrival.

Athletics and sex

"The Minotaur’s Dream" has surprised some critics and thoroughly disappointed others. The one-and-a-half hour long ballet is accompanied by a large orchestra that contributes pieces by Claude Debussy and Sergey Prokofiev alike.

Li, who first produced a scaled-down version of the ballet in 1998, deals with themes of sex and athletics in "The Minotaur," but less sex – something Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung critic Jochen Schmidt found disappointing.

Traum des Minotaurus

A miffed Schmidt huffed, "an hour and a quarter of the opening performance went by before the ballerinas actually appeared with naked torsos." The ballet, he wrote, hardly lived up to its advertising.

"Unfortunately, it is eroticism of only the dullest and most disheartening kind for petit bourgeois tastes," Schmidt wrote.

The curtain fall in Schmidt’s show was greeted by boos, he wrote.

"The campaign presents a certain idea that appears only briefly," said Wenzel Bilger, a 26-year-old student who watched the show’s final dress rehearsal. "It doesn’t represent what the show is mainly about."

But the ad campaign seems to be accomplishing what it set out to do. Sunday's premier was sold out, said a spokeswoman, as are the next two shows.

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