FINDING THE POINTE OF HISTORICAL BALLETS: HOW CLASSICAL BALLETS REPRESENT STORIES FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD

Date

2023-05-15

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Abstract

From the very beginning of ballet, the ancient world has been used as a setting for a variety of reasons. The earliest ballets chose the ancient world as a setting for ballets to create easily understood stories for their audiences so as not to distract from the novel new style of performing art. As ballet progressed, the ancient world was used as a setting as it allowed directors to create ballets about distant and exotic lands and represent different cultures as a way to draw in larger audiences. This was often done at the expense of the cultures represented and the women who danced in the ballets as they were dressed and danced in a manner that would not have been deemed fitting in Europe. Other ballets used the ancient world so as to present political ideas to their audiences, but by setting them in the distant past they were not too forward or offensive to the audiences who witnessed them. With the turn of the twenty-first century, ballets took a new approach to ballets. Through a case study of the Houston Ballet and their ballets about the ancient world, a shift can be seen in how the cultures and women of the ancient world are portrayed. These new ballets now celebrate strong women, different cultures, and relatable stories that all audiences could enjoy. Examination of these ballets was done through historical writings, performance programs, letters, reviews, and several new oral history interviews with the ballet dancers and directors who created ballets with the Houston Ballet.

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Keywords

Ballet, Ancient world, Houston ballet, Houston, Pantomime, Ballet history, Dance

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