We Are Not All Black Swans: Ballet in Popular Culture and the Media, Part 1: Introduction to the Issues

I just have so many feelings about this that I can barely be coherent, so I apologize in advance.

Ballet is one of my great passions – I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. I loved it first for its beauty and its grace, its boundless energy and athleticism, its lyricism and its romanticism. And when I started to dance myself, I loved it for its discipline and demands, its perfection and its imperfection.

I love it for the indescribable combination of joy and fear that leaps up in me when I step out on stage. I love it for the incredible range of emotions that dancing or watching dance evokes in me.

I even love it for the blisters and blood and late nights and early mornings…most of the time.

And that is why I am so, so torn about the depiction of ballet in popular culture.

On the one hand, I am glad that there is interest, and exposure. Ballet has a -somewhat unfair- reputation of being “boring”, or “elitist” or “only for old people”. Perhaps not as much as opera, but the feeling is still there. In this day and age, where accessibility is emphasized above all else, where you can tweet a celebrity and the people on TV are “just like you”, the dancer is something of an anomaly.  The intense, long-term training, the separation of audience and stage, the price of the tickets (although this is changing) and at the most basic level the use of objects (pointe shoes) and movements (eg, turning out) that are completely foreign to the ‘normal’ experience, all conspire to put distance between the general public and the world of ballet.

So I’m glad that there is awareness of, and renewed interest in, ballet as an art form as a result of recent aspects of popular culture and media. And yet, at the same time, I wonder if these portrayals are doing more harm than good. There is a line between “any press is good press” and negative portrayals hurting the art form. I don’t think we’ve crossed it yet – hopefully – but we’re certainly headed in that direction.

It’s not that I’m advocating a universally positive view of ballet. It’s true that its nature lends itself to certain challenges. For example: ballet is an aesthetic art form in which the body of the dancer is the instrument – this necessitates a certain physique. You have to be athletic enough and strong enough to actually dance – and that’s hard work, people, it’s not just twirling around with your hands above your head – and you have to look pretty doing it. Of course, when taken to the extreme you have dancers – natural perfectionists – obsessing over their weight and appearance, possibly leading to eating disorders or depression or a myriad of other issues. And there are certain companies or directors who, intentionally or unintentionally, contribute to that sort of thing. Dance puts a lot of pressure on the dancer, and it’s hard.

So I’m not saying ballet is perfect.

But there seem to be an awful lot of people who associate ballet  or ballerina with anorexia, bulimia, eating disorders, conceited, snobby, elitist, girly, (and with it the eternal girly=less valuable/worse), gay, restrictive, socially stunted…

Why does the art form that makes my heart sing evoke such responses?

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Pintrest, but with words

I’m forever coming across things – bits of dialogue, story kernels, names, phrases – which I want to keep, thinking that one day they may make it into my writing. They pop into my head unbidden, or I overhear them on the subway/bus, or I read them in a book/newspaper/magazine/whatever and don’t want to let them go.

It’s like Pintrest, but with words instead of pictures.

I’m hardly the only writer who does this. Part of writing is being open to inspiration, and this is one way – a good way – to do it.

So I present to you some bits and pieces I’ve collected semi-recently.

Two lanterns burning and no ship at sea
What if everyone in the world had a fairy godmother except for you?
ASPCA investigator for aliens
Six-toed cats are lucky (like Flanders)
Cathedrals of sound
Dwindle, Peak, and Pine, Esquires
Personal Injury lawyers specializing in prophetic malpractice

And my personal favorite:
“Your shower smells like death.”
“That’s because there’s a vampire roosting in it.”
That one, by the way, comes from real life. My shower currently smells like something died in it, despite the fact that I haven’t used it for 3-4 years, and I am not amused.

The internets are uncooperative. I am not amused.

New in the sidebar: progress bars which will, theoretically, update you (who? Is anybody out there reading this nonsense?) on my progress. But apparently the coding was not correct, so I will have to mess around some more and try to figure it out. However, because it it rather late and I’m tired, I will do that tomorrow. I am not really amused by this situation.

In other news, I love my stories. I was falling out of love with Lioness but I just reread the nuggets I wrote and there are beautiful little gems in there. Now I just have to do the not-so-fun part: organize and plan so that when I resume writing I don’t get bogged down or lost. Ditto with princess, although I’m also having the worldbuilding fail problem there…

Maintenance

Somehow the reading list has reverted back to an earlier version. Blogger, I AM NOT AMUSED.
 Please bear with me as I attempt to correct it.

EDIT: fixed it. Although I am still NOT AMUSED.