Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity
Chapter 3: Thinking through the Body
Thinking through the Body
‘My body is like a machine which I control. I push my turn-out and flexibility and keep working until I get the movements, then I can relax and be me and perform and express myself.’
— ANNA, 13 years
As the body is of paramount importance in ballet, it is pertinent therefore to explore dominant and differing perspectives that are central to the academic field of body studies, in order to understand the differing ways the body is viewed and, consequently, how it may be treated. In this chapter I examine and discuss three dominant perspectives to body studies: the naturalistic body, the social constructionist body and the phenomenological body. In this book, I interweave the lived experiences of young dancers with discussion and situate the culture of classical ballet within the contexts of two elite ballet schools. I examine ways in which the young dancer’s ballet body is produced within these ballet schools. In particular I adopt the work of Pierre Bourdieu as a way of understanding the connections between body, gender and identity within the field of classical ballet. I am concerned with embodiment and practices rather than discourses and effects and I am concentrating then on the embodiment of the young ballet dancer. I examine the ballet dancer’s habitus and the ways in which the young ballet dancer’s body and habitus is produced and maintained. I explore, as a starting point, the notion of...
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