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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Intersectionality and the Politics of Ballet
Ballet dancers drag a long and conservative history with them each time they step onstage. Yet recently some of the most radical challenges in dance are coming from ballerinas wearing prosthetic limbs, male dancers in tutus and pointe shoes and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women performing ballet for women only audiences. This new seminar uses dance history to reposition ballet as a daring future-facing art form, one where the politics of nationality, religion, class, gender, race, and disability intersect (intersectionality). These issues are provocatively illuminated by classically trained dancers like South African artist Dada Masilo in her gender-bending Swan Lake and Giselle mashups and activist American dancer Alice Sheppard’s showcasing of the art of disability partnered by her wheelchair. What can ballet bring to the pressing social issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity when for centuries it has been considered an exemplar of the static imperialist, Western art form and idealized white body? What has shifted to reveal ballet as a vital medium for registering new global identities and social justice challenges? How can an art form built on obedient bodies be politically dangerous?
Using live and recorded performances, interviews with practitioners reshaping the field and close readings of new scholarship, we will see how 21st century politics are being negotiated through ballet. Exposing limitations of binaries such as feminine/masculine, white/black, heterosexual/homosexual, and colonial and colonized histories, we consider how culture is complicated through the ballet repertoire and its techniques for disciplining and gendering bodies.