‘Don’t think, dear’ said Balanchine. ‘Just do.’
For centuries, being a ballerina has been synonymous with being beautiful, thin, obedient and feminine. It is the crucible of womanhood, together with the harassment, physical abuse and eating disorders endemic at top schools. Can we abide this in a post #MeToo world?
Weaving together her own time at America’s most elite ballet school with the lives of renowned ballerinas throughout history, Alice Robb interrogates what it means to perform ballet today. She confronts the all-consuming nature of the form: the obsessive and dangerous practices to perfect the body, the embrace of submission and the idealisation of suffering.
Yet ballet also gifts its dancers ‘brains in their toes’, a way to fully inhabit their bodies and a sanctuary of control away from the pressures of the outside world. Perhaps it is time to reimagine its liberating potential.