Show Less
Restricted access

Ballet Body Narratives

Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity

Angela Pickard

Ballet Body Narratives is an ethnographic exploration of the social world of classical ballet and the embodiment of young ballet dancers as they engage in «becoming a dancer» in ballet school in England. In contrast to the largely disembodied sociological literature of the body, this book places the corporeal body as central to the examination and reveals significant relationships between body, society and identity. Drawing on academic scholarship as well as rich ballet body narratives from young dancers, this book investigates how young ballet dancers’ bodies are lived, experienced and constructed through their desire to become performing ballet dancers as well as the seductive appeal of the ballet aesthetic. Pierre Bourdieu’s critique of the perpetuating social order and his theoretical framework of field, habitus and capital are applied as a way of understanding the social world of ballet but also of relating the ballet habitus and belief in the body to broader social structures. This book examines the distinctiveness of ballet culture and aspects of young ballet dancers’ embodied identity through a central focus on the ballet body.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 5: Ballet Bodies in Pain



Ballet Bodies in Pain

‘Ballet is both beautiful and brutal – I am smiling while my muscles are aching and my toes are bleeding.’

— LEAH, 14 years

A young ballet dancer with a desire to be a performing and professional ballet dancer is engaged in a process of ‘becoming’, so during this time of formation and development the young dancer must work out the ‘rules of the game’ (Bourdieu, 1990a) and which aspects of the game carry most value or capital. These workings out will then influence the player’s or dancer’s future action. The meanings and values that the young dancer attaches to their body is significant because the body becomes ballet so, consequently, there is a strong relationship between the ballet dancer’s body and their identity as a ballet dancer. As I have argued, given that the ballet body is represented in process as construction and in product as performance, the ballet body is both the subject and the object of ballet. The dominant view is that the body is perceived in a third person sense as thing, object or machine by the young dancers rather than in a holistic way. I have already suggested the influential power of the ballet aesthetic and that the ballet dancer is an embodiment of an object of and a creator of desire: the ballet aesthetic of beauty and perfection. Physical and emotional pain and suffering is generally accepted by the young dancers as...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.