Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity
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...
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