Fall 2021 In Dance

by EMMA GARBER The Women inWhite

A These are the four most popular librettos in the classical ballet reper- toire. Swan Lake, Giselle, La Sylphide, and La Bayadere are collectively A YOUNG WOMAN IS KIDNAPPED and tortured. When a man promises to save her, he falls through on his word. She kills herself, realizing she would be happier in death than she is in life. A YOUNG WOMAN LEARNS she is in a relationship with a mar- ried man. Publicly humiliated, she is called crazy and dies amidst her betrayal and shame.

Now entering my senior year, this question still haunts me. Truth be told, the female protagonists in my favorite ballets weren’t exactly women. They were swans and sylphs. Ghosts. Hallucinations. Fairies. Wood- land creatures. Just woman enough to feel the pain of their misfortunes, yet fantastical enough to dance through it. They were chaste visions in bridal white. Men fell in love with them upon

the classical ballet repertoire; ballet masters, choreographers, and direc- tors scoff at the mere suggestion of tampering with the classics. If the bal- let world loves anything, it’s tradition. Like many young girls, I was seduced by the fairytale escapism that classical ballet promised me. My walls were adorned with paintings of tutu-clad dancers and signed pointe shoes. I watched performances of each

ballet on repeat, memorizing the steps and score as if they were song lyr- ics. Later in my training I would per- form excerpts and variations from the White Ballets. Donning layers of white tulle and rib-shackling corsets, I stood in militaristic-like ranks of swans, shades, and willis. It was not until my first year of col- lege that I asked myself why women were always dying in classical ballets.

A MAN LEAVES HIS FIANCÉ to pursue his fantasy woman. Unable to tame her, he wraps her in straitjacket-like silks, killing her instantly. A TEMPLE DANCER IS CAUGHT amidst conspiracy and scandal when her lover agrees to marry another woman. After their infidelities are revealed, those in power first shame and then murder the young dancer.

referred to as the “White Ballets” after their second acts, where the corps de ballet appear in all white. Each ballet is over a hundred years old, but every major ballet company in the world continues to perform them, often without revisions. They are pillars of


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