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The Disappearing Danseur

Marian Smith
Cambridge Opera Journal
Vol. 19, No. 1, The Divo and the Danseur: On the Nineteenth-Century Male Opera and Ballet Performer (Mar., 2007), pp. 33-57
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27607146
Page Count: 25
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The Disappearing Danseur
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Abstract

The notion of studying the nineteenth-century danseur is problematic because of an anti-male strain in dance historiography that has led some to suggest that he virtually disappeared from the stage. André Levinson is largely responsible for the danseur's poor reputation: he minimised the narrative aspect of nineteenth-century ballet and declared in 1929 that the ballerina Marie Taglioni had 'evicted' men from the stage. Levinson also canonised La Sylphide (1832), a ballet that he, like his nineteenth-century predecessors Théophile Gautier and Jules Janin, gendered as feminine. He promulgated the term 'ballet blanc', a feminising but misleading term now in common use and rarely interrogated. And yet men danced on the stage throughout the nineteenth century. In the case of the Paris Opéra, men contributed to ballet as principal dancers, soloists and in the corps de ballet. A brief study of "La Jolie Fille de Gand", a ballet contemporaneous with La Sylphide, shows a rich set of male roles calling on men's skill as mimes and dancers in various styles. Further studies of the long-maligned nineteenth-century danseur are needed.

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