The Body in Ballet: How the Male Gaze Shaped the Ballerina Archetype
Feminist film scholar Laura Mulvey’s concept of “the male gaze” posits that women are objectified and hypersexualized on the screen through male erotic projections, especially from the male film directors. This theory is highly applicable to ballet, with its deep history of power imbalance between male choreographers and female dancers and stark sexual demarcations in gender representations commonly based on regressive stereotypes.
In this project, Uanne Change ’20 constructs a Foucauldian historical genealogy examining pivotal moments in ballet history: the Romantic Era in Europe and the late 20th-century Balanchine period in the United States. Chang analyzes the role the male gaze plays in molding the female ballerina archetype- thin, beautiful, and submissive – and examines how male erotic projections affected the representation of the female body on stages, as well as the effects on women’s health in the art form, ultimately questioning the basis of beauty standards that have become critical to, or synonymous with, the image of ballet.