Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity
Chapter 6: Gendered Experiences of Pain
Gendered Experiences of Pain
‘Where I’m from, if you’re a boy you don’t do ballet.’
— KENZI, 12 years
To return to the historical roots of ballet for a moment, from the fifteenth to the late eighteenth century, dance as a formative discipline, social practice and theatrical art was predominantly a male domain. ‘Men danced female roles; men developed and transmitted technique; men invented a system of dance notation; men created and produced ballets’ (Nordera, 2007: 174). Prejudices against a male’s choice of ballet as a leisure activity or profession have arisen out of stereotypes that were developed regarding the dancer’s body, attitudes and sexual orientation around the 1830s onwards with a parallel made between dance and homosexuality and the relative homophobic reactions. Male dancing rose to prominence after Ballet Russes and during the 1970s; at the same time, ironically, as the women’s rights movement reached its peak. The shift was accompanied by much ‘dancing is masculine’ propaganda in the press and in a spate of books. Male dancers such as Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Edward Villella were hyped as strong, virile and athletic stars (Burt, 1995). This ideal form of masculinity is portrayed to be something to which men can aspire but is also linked with sexuality as it endorses heterosexual masculinity; these male dancers are seen as attractive to women. ← 101 | 102 →
For a man, the technical or athletic side of dance...
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