Art: Dance Without the Dancer

They were some of the strangest creatures ever to cavort upon a stage, those ballerinas in George Balanchine's 1946 ballet, The Four Temperaments. Swaddled with shreds of drapery, bodices bandaged with ribbons, they seemed like cats' playthings, a ragpicker's delight, a macabre masquerade of Martians. Only a slippered leg or two revealed that they were real live dancers, panoplied in fantastic dress by Surrealist Kurt Seligmann. But it was natural that Seligmann would design costumes for diversion. His art always cloaked anatomy in fanciful clothes. In costume design or painting, he could easily subtract the dancer from the dance (see opposite...

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