Pain, Pleasure and Perfection in Embodied Identity
Chapter 8: Pleasure, Power and Perfection
Pleasure, Power and Perfection
‘I feel that I’m at my best when I’m feeling pain just where I can bear it but I’m on top of it … At the end of the class or performance, if I’ve felt the pain but it hasn’t bothered me then I feel so good and I get goose bumps. It’s sort of fun really and I want the feeling again and again.’
— LIE, 15 years
In a previous chapter, I raised the notion that there may be pleasure and power to be experienced in enduring pain and I will now examine this further. To begin with, the body in ballet is determined by its successes but also by its limitations so when the dancer exceeds their past limitations, whether in terms of technique, body shape or size, pain threshold or in conveying artistic intention, they embody the value of achievement, which is also linked to capital and status. Bodily lived limits are constantly tested and expanded within the social world of ballet where pain is viewed as a route to enhancement or development as evidenced in the social construction of ‘good pain’, ‘nice hurt’ and ‘bad pain’.
In the social context of the ballet class I suggest that a simplistic pain/pleasure dichotomy is inadequate because bodily limits are explored out of an apparent desire from the young dancer to do so, in order to move beyond the normal or previous self. This...
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