Is Ballet Camp? – The New York Times

If the camp object or particular person is at all times in citation marks, as Sontag says, then ballet’s fairy-story romances lend this remedy to gender. We don’t see a girl in level sneakers. We see a “woman,” simply because the ornate Tiffany shade makes the lamp a “lamp.” (Tights and prince tunics can do the identical factor for males.)

Christopher Isherwood was among the many first writers to look at this quotation impact. In his novel “The World in the Evening” (1954), he locations Mae West drag on one finish of the camp spectrum and classical dance on the opposite. “High Camp is the whole emotional basis of the ballet,” he writes. For Isherwood, the camp angle takes severe topic issues — in ballet’s case, love — and expresses them, “in terms of fun and artifice and elegance.”

But kinds, even in classical dance, change. When Isherwood used ballet to make his level within the 1950s, the artwork type’s athletic feats have been padded with triumphant presentational prospers, emphatic appearing and pauses that demanded the viewers’s applause. The outdated Russian touring corporations had not fairly died, with their “smell of the greasepaint, the ballerina in excelsis, the demented fans,” as Joan Acocella described in a 2005 The New Yorker article concerning the drag troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, who parody this mode.

Ballet’s marginal standing within the cultural sphere solely enhanced ballerinas’ rarefied, self-acutely aware movie star and the cultishness of their followers. Peter Anastos, the founding father of the Trockaderos, stated in a cellphone interview: “You would never see one of these dancers in a store or in a restaurant. They were like silent-movie stars. And they would never really get into the role. It was always them doing the part.”

If there’s a camp essence on this Romantic fashion of ballet, with its jeweled costumes and feathered headdresses, it’s associated to the worship of a mode that’s not of its time. In an artwork type that prides itself on custom, handed down from one technology to the following, the steps and costumes stay principally unchanged even when the viewers, and typically the dancers themselves, not know what all of it means.

To embrace the artwork type’s classicism, particularly as exhibited in 19th-century story ballets like “Le Corsaire” and “Don Quixote,” you must put apart a way of up to date tastefulness. Their landscapes are so synthetic, their plots so dreamlike, that they require a unique type of appreciation from the viewers — “tender” is the phrase Sontag makes use of — than the most recent in, say, conceptual artwork.

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