25 January 2019
By Madison Mainwaring
In a typical morning class at American Ballet Theater, the brightly lit studio feels like a laboratory. If you’ve watched these dancers in performance, you might be surprised at how messy they can be when practicing, falling out of turns, missing the landing of jumps.
On a Friday before “Nutcracker” season, the ballet master Vladilen Semenov remained relatively quiet, explaining a combination before stepping back to watch to the mixed class of men and women. But the dancers had their own agendas, testing their bodies in experiments of strength, flexibility and physics. A handful of the women, instead of going on point, stayed in slippers to try the men’s steps.
Ballet is widely seen as putting women on a pedestal — male dancers literally lift them over their heads — reinforcing conventional ideas about masculinity and femininity. The pas de deux, or romantic male-female duet, is considered by many to be the art form’s linchpin, but it can seem sentimental, or worse, sexist. Can ballet reflect contemporary ideas about gender? This question is crucial in determining its future standing and reception, especially among audience members unfamiliar with its traditions.
Read the full article in the New York Times.