Ballet Is Woman: Supporting Real Women In a Rarefied Art Form
George Balanchine was famously quoted saying, “ballet is woman”. He believed in the strength and seductive style female dancers brought to the stage. Of course, his specific standard of the ideal “woman” was incredibly high, if not ironic: small head, fair skin, slender hips, and if he could help it, they would never age. For the record, there’s nothing wrong with being sixteen and slim, but women do experience change. Rather than trying to preserve this notion of perpetual youth, adult ballet encourages women to embrace whatever season of life they’re in. Consider three major ways ballet is still relevant to the everywoman.
1. Women have had time to mature. Teaching adult ballet was one of the greatest highlights of my career, because women know why they dance. Don’t misunderstand – enthusiastic little girls in tutus are a precious vision. But adolescent dancers don’t always understand why they dance; perhaps it’s their parents’ dream, not theirs. Maybe they enjoy burning up energy in dance class as much as they enjoy kicking a soccer ball around.
On the other hand, grown women (and I have reference to ages 18+), know their reasons for dancing. No one has pressured them into wearing tights, or scheduling class after a long day at work. Unlike teens who often struggle with their burgeoning sexuality and other vicious insecurities, women generally tend to be more confident in their bodies and choices. Having the strict physique and technical ability of a prima ballerina is inconsequential – they own their life and that’s true beauty.
2. Ballet contributes to female heath.
Sure, male dancers are some of the strongest, most agile athletes in the world. But the positive effects of ballet specifically on women’s bodies is notable in many ways. Participating in mild technique classes has been known to reduce menstrual discomfort, even the aches associated with pregnancy (Dancing For Birth has become a very popular series of pain alleviation classes for expectant mothers).
It would be erroneous to think ballet is an activity that belongs only to the youngest and fittest. In fact, I’ve known grown women that could keep up with the best of them, even surpass their younger peers. Because so much of our emotional, mental, and physical health is intertwined, it behooves women to incorporate ballet into their wellness routine as they would any other therapeutic activity such as yoga or meditation.
3. Women have the money, honey.
Little Kyle and Katie may have loved The Nutcracker, but it was Mommy who bought the tickets. Women make up the foundation of so many causes and organizations, and the ballet world is no different. Many older, financially established women become key supporters of fundraisers and performances. Even on a smaller scale, women are allocating slices of their paycheck to pay for adult classes, or possibly paying for a child’s tuition.
The lesson here? Don’t patronize the patron. Everyday mothers, daughters, and grandmothers are supporting an art form they are very much a part of.
My wish is for all women to be set free from fear, insecurity and elitist expectations. Youth is grand, but there’s great honor and satisfaction in empowering yourself through life experience. Is ballet woman? Yes. Every woman.
-Bethany Leger, June 28, 2016