The Figure of the Dancer: Salome

  • Sylvia C. Ellis


Before embarking on the principal concern of this chapter, an examination of versions of the legend of Salome which emerged after Heinrich Heine’s publication of Atta Troll in 1841, reached a climax in the 1890s and continued, in a transformed manner, in the works of W. B. Yeats, echoing even in the last plays of 1935 and 1939, I shall first discuss the figure of the dancer as a concept of great significance to the movement of Symbolisme-Décadence and why she so captivated the fin-de-siècle consciousness of writers, painters and musicians. The gender of the dancer was indeed automatically assumed to be female, a legacy, as shall be made plain in Chapter 3 on the dancer in performance, from Romantic Ballet and the Marie Taglioni tradition: it is only with the advent of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as late as 1909 in Paris and 1911 in London and, in particular, the very Russian phenomenon of Nijinsky — set, as he is, in a tradition which emphasised the importance of the male dancer — that the tyranny of the female dancer began to loosen its grip. The discussion of several works with the Salome story as theme will entail a brief investigation into the historical perspectives of the critics cited in this chapter and it will then be brought to a close by paying some attention to the modern critical debate on sexual politics and the fascination for the girl-dancer in those terms.


Oxford English Dictionary Precious Stone Stage Direction Female Dancer Femme Fatale 
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Copyright information

© Sylvia C. Ellis 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvia C. Ellis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WalesBangorUK

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