Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity
Chapter 1: Ballet, Bodies and Becoming
Ballet, Bodies and Becoming
I Am a Dancer
I have become a dancer through a process of construction that began in early childhood. I was taken to ballet classes at a young age by my mother who claimed it was because I was always moving or ‘jiggling around’, as she put it. I remember that I started to really enjoy it at about 9 years old. At this time I was participating in a number of other activities – gymnastics, theatre group and swimming – but I preferred ballet. I do not remember wanting to be a professional dancer but ballet (and other genres of dance) did eventually encompass every aspect of my leisure time as I decided to reject the other activities and engaged in an increased number of classes, preparation for examinations, rehearsals, performances and an ongoing practice of steps and combinations. I do not remember being persuaded or coerced overtly to do this; I believe that it was my choice. The codified vocabulary of ballet steps were taught in French and English, with classical music played to accompany the class. I learned particular ways of being through ballet. I learned about the ideal ballet aesthetic of perfection and the discipline that is involved in attempting to achieve this. I experienced teaching methods that treated my body as a ‘petite fighting machine’; I pulled up, extended and stretched my body to achieve the necessary and purposeful tension and softness to carry the...
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