Date of Award
Dr. Barbara Pemberton
Professor Donnie Copeland
Professor Stephanie Murry
The process of drawing parallels between styles of ballet pedagogy and eras of art history unfolded quite unexpectedly through a few specific moments of brief inspiration, fueled largely by my personal experiences as a dancer and artist. Through my dance experience, which began at the age of three, I spent many years in front of a mirror considering how certain physical movements appear aesthetically, learning to manipulate my body to create a desired visual, and internalizing established rules for moving. One of these moments of inspiration occurred in a ballet class one afternoon when my instructor gave the class the correction to imagine energy shooting from our fingertips across the room to encourage us to reach further, essentially creating the illusion of a line extending beyond the space we physically occupied. In that moment, I recognized a similarity between “extending the line” of an arm or arabesque in ballet and creating implied line in the composition of visual artwork, a concept discussed in a recent design class. Following this realization, I began contemplating the prevalence of the elements of art and principles of design within ballet: line, shape, space, balance, movement, and unity were all concepts familiar to composing and analyzing visual art, but they felt intriguingly present in my experience as a dancer as well. These elements and principles seemed to parallel the rules for moving that I internalized as a dancer. This connection led to a directed study with Dr. Barbara Pemberton, in which we read Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans. This study included countless fascinating realizations about the historical importance of ballet toward shaping the cultural identity of nations, fostering political relations, and integrating various art forms. Aided by a class on the History of Modern and Contemporary Art with Professor Donnie Copeland the same semester, I soon expanded my comparison between the fundamental elements of art and principles of design and ballet to include a broader consideration of the art world as a whole. As the semester progressed, a discussion from one class would remind me of the other. I recognized both concrete interpersonal connections between artists and dancers and similarities in the conceptual or philosophical approaches of specific artists and dancers to their respective crafts. The general concept of comparing styles of ballet pedagogy to art movements never occurred to me until the similarities between the specific styles and movements arose in my mind. Before any concrete parallels crystalized, I detected a similar artistic essence at the heart of Vaganova’s style of ballet and Baroque art, a shared elevation of both skilled excellence and passionate expression. While comparing Balanchine’s style to modern art occurred more naturally, as these occurred simultaneously in history, determining the artists whose conceptual approaches best matched Balanchine’s work required further investigation.
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Gregory, Emma, "The Architecture of Movement" (2022). Honors Theses. 914.