Dance, Feminism, and the Critique of the Visual

  • Roger Copeland


One of the most radical and decisive differences between nineteenth-century ballet and early modern dance is so obvious that its far-reaching implications are easily overlooked: the early moderns, almost all of whom began their choreographic careers by creating solos for themselves, were using their own unballetic bodies rather than someone else’s body as the raw material of their art. It is significant that — at least in conversation — we continue to refer to artists such as Martha Graham or Mary Wigman as modern dancers — not modern dance choreographers. This habit of speech has the effect of emphasising how often these choreographers tended to perform in their own dances. They didn’t stand apart from the choreography and view it as external to themselves. In nineteenth-century ballet by contrast, the choreographer — almost invariably a man — imposed abstract patterns on the bodies of others (usually women). There is, after all, no male equivalent for the corps de ballet; and the choreographer who manipulates that corps stands apart from his creation.


Sexual Revolution Sexual Politics Male Desire Modern Dance Male Consort 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roger Copeland

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