Monday, 5 November 2018

Dance! Skin Tone and the Balanchine Body

Black dancers are often labelled and typecast "in pieces that require extreme athleticism as opposed to classical lines". As they are viewed as muscular and athletic, they do not fit in to the Balanchine model that was used for ballet dancers: small head, long legs, very slender body (Keenan, 2017). George Balanchine (1904-1983) liked to see bones and ribs. His obsession with slender bodies, in fact, is blamed for eating disorders of dancers today (via).


"Dictating such rigid roles for centuries has made it difficult for audiences, choreographers, and dancers to accept change." A homogeneous corps of ballet is still preferred which again promotes Eurocentric beauty ideals. The American Ballet Theatre, for instance, had its first black female principal after 77 years (Keenan, 2017).
George Balanchine's presence was so dominant in NYCB that the dancers, the scenic presentation, the musical investiture, all seem to operate with the same value system, even in ballets not choreographed by Balanchine.
Siegel (1983)

- Keenan, S. M. (2017). A Choreographic Exploration of Race and Gender Representation in Film and Dance. Scripps Senior Theses, online
- Siegel, M. B. (1983). George Balanchine 1904-1983. The Hudson Review, 36(3), 519+521-526.
- images (Sweet Charity, 1969, based on Federico Fellini's screenplay) via and via and via