Balanchine Ballerina Essay

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The Balanchine Ballerina; Oppression in Ballet Classical ballet has always been a symbol of femininity; ballerinas have always been depicted as wispy, fairy-like, and exceptionally thin. Within the classical ballet community, dancers are trained to attempt to fit into this impossible stereotype. To be thin and possess a flawless image is the unspoken yet always present pressure. Ballerinas go to such extreme lengths to fill this stereotype that they literally deteriorate their bodies, suffering physically and psychologically. The pressure to fit the stereotypical image of a ballerina is oppressive, yet it continues to be dictated through the influence of society. Through internal and external pressure, it has become a cultural expectation for ballerinas to fit this mold, ultimately oppressing all classical female ballerinas. Classical dancers, especially ballerinas, are expected and pressured to fit into a very specific image. Professional ballerinas are characterized for their narrow hips, little or no fat content, slim middle, small breasts, and delicate features. It is a female stereotype known as the Balanchine ballerina. Tall, slender women with long necks, long legs, and short torsos fit this image. These characteristics and ideals provide a very narrow window for dancers to try and emulate their appearance by. Dancers are supposed to move as if floating, creating perfect lines with their bodies. They need to jump high, spin fast, and balance steadily, which extra weight makes more difficult. In response to these attributes, ballerinas recognize that being smaller gives them an edge over other dancers. This is where the trouble begins in the ballet community. The origin of the Balanchine body image dates back to the 1930s, when George Balanchine came to America with his idea of an ideal body type for the female ballerina. Balanchine was a
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