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Fiercely graceful: Hope Solo in buff

Soccer star Hope Solo, who is currently appearing in the TV series Dancing With The Stars, looked uncomfortably exposed in her debut show dressed in a backless gown. It wasn’t just that her backless dress barely covered the gym-toned slab of her torso.

entertainment Updated: Oct 23, 2011 00:23 IST

Soccer star Hope Solo, who is currently appearing in the TV series Dancing With The Stars, looked uncomfortably exposed in her debut show dressed in a backless gown. It wasn’t just that her backless dress barely covered the gym-toned slab of her torso. What revealed the most was the static plane of her arms, shoulders and waist that got in the way of what should have been a sweeping ecstasy.

The soccer star also appears in the nude on the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s ‘The Body Issue’, an annual edition featuring artful photographs of athletes in the buff. Solo rises high on one leg with the other crooked in front, its gleaming shinbone in dagger-like alignment with her pointed toes. (Her lifted knee ensures that we don’t see too much. Thankfully, none of the ESPN photos offers a prurient view.) Think the goalie lacks grace? Not in this photo, which combines the athlete’s fierceness with a dancer’s poise and lifted rhythm. There is, in fact, something of the linear, neoclassical ballerina here. Put a red leotard on her, and Solo could be the towering, icy Siren in George Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son.

Hope SoloDo we admire her or fear her? With her lean frame and leonine features, she could also be a boy warrior. Solo is the un-centrefold: androgynous, powerful and a little menacing. As Martha Graham said, the body doesn’t lie. There’s a truthfulness in how we move and how we present ourselves, something choreographers as well as criminal profilers and experts in body language know but evident to the untrained eye as well, because nothing is more familiar to us than the body.

The appeal of ESPN’s ‘Body Issue’ is that it’s complicated. It doesn’t offer easy images. Captured in these photos are more than the girls of your dreams or hunky beefcakes. The harnessed energy and subtle, sometimes inscrutable emotions expressed not only in their faces but in the contours of their bodies recall why nudes inspired the great masters of painting and sculpture.

Some of the photos channel classic ideals of perfection and industry. In a recent interview, ESPN magazine editor-in-chief Chad Millman said he hoped this issue “opens people’s eyes to the way athletes look and how they feel about themselves. It shows their vulnerability,” he said. “It also shows their confidence in a way that, it’s not a braggart, I-can-beat-you confidence, but it’s ‘I recognise who I am and what I have and I’ve worked very hard to get it.’”