Dying Swans and Madmen
Ballet, the Body, and Narrative Cinema
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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I suppose my first awareness of ballet as something I wanted to do occurred when I saw a performance of Swan Lake in Cairo, Egypt, in the mid-1960s; my English teacher’s daughter was a member of the corps de ballet, and soon afterward I began to listen compulsively to ballet music, especially anything by Tchaikovsky, and to demand ballet lessons. My first lessons took place at ...
Introduction: Ballet in Tin Cans
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The 1953 MGM musical The Band Wagon stars Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse as professional dancers named Tony Hunter and Gabrielle Gerard. He is an aging hoofer, she a young ballerina, and it has been decided that they must dance together, perform together, in a new Broadway show. The idea is mutually terrifying: each thinks...
Chapter 1: A Channel for Progress: Theatrical Dance, Popular Culture, and (The) American Ballet
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When I first began to study dance history several decades ago, most books on the subject presented the history of ballet as a sequence of more or less cause-and-effect events involving various influential people and a few important dance works. From these books I learned...
Chapter 2: The Lot of a Ballerina Is Indeed Tough: Gender, Genre, and the Ballet Film through 1947, Part I
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What do the following actors have in common: Donald Cook, Greta Garbo, Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire, Vera Zorina, Ann Miller, Vivien Leigh, Maureen O’Hara, Maria Ouspenskaya, Loretta Young, Cyd Charisse, Stan Laurel, Tamara Toumanova, Ivan Kirov, and Margaret O’Brien? The answer, for the purposes of this book, is naturally that they all played ballet dancers in Hollywood films. Some of the names on the...
Chapter 3: The Man Was Mad—But a Genius!: Gender, Genre, and the Ballet Film through 1947, Part II
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The number of classical Hollywood films with male ballet artists as protagonists can probably be counted on one hand: The Mad Genius (1931), with John Barrymore and Donald Cook, explicitly “based in some respects upon the life and work of Serge Diaghileff”; Shall We Dance (1937), a Fred Astaire– Ginger Rogers vehicle...
Chapter 4: If You Can Disregard the Plot: The Red Shoes in an American Context
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Hollywood films were representing the profession of ballet with considerable iconographic consistency by the late 1940s, marking it as a form of highbrow art to which its practitioners were fanatically devoted and dedicated, their overriding ambition, whether male or female, to dance and keep dancing. But, as we have seen, often...
Chapter 5: The Second Act Will Be Quite Different: Cinema, Culture, and Ballet in the 1950s
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On October 9, 1949, the Sadler’s Wells Ballet opened its first American season ever at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, with its own opulent full-length production of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. Ninette de Valois’ British company was presented by impresario Sol Hurok, who had long been a supporter of ballet as popular entertainment but...
Chapter 6: Turning Points: Ballet and Its Bodies in the “Post-Studio” Era
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In 1965 and again in 1968, Time magazine devoted cover stories to ballet.1 In the first case, the focus was on Rudolf Nureyev, who had defected in 1961 and had rapidly become one of the biggest male ballet stars the world had seen. His partnership with Britain’s...
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About the Author
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ADRIENNE L. McLEAN obtained her M.F.A. in Dance as a Meadows Fellow at Southern Methodist University in 1981 and, after an interval of “normal” life, returned to school and acquired an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Film Studies and American Studies from Emory University in 1994. She is currently a professor of Film and Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas at ...
Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 50 illustrations
Publication Year: 2008