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The Ballet Physique As Molded By Media

2479 words - 10 pages

“mass media is one of the principal factors behind body dissatisfaction, concerns about
weight, and disordered eating behavior”( Levine, Murnen 2009).
The media acts as an influential force where society’s views of body image and health are used to brainwash the minds of its consumers. The constant pressure exuded by the media affects many individuals in society. Whether it is an ad on a passing bus, or a commercial broadcasted into family homes, the media finds its way to penetrate and convey certain perceptions of body and health. Women are predominantly affected by this narrow view. Particularly looking at female ballet dancers, the media portrays a one-sided view of the ballet physique, broadcasting a restricted ideology to the community. Similar to many art forms, ballet is highly scrutinized, and is full of cultural and historical ideas. Media plays a huge part in the perception of these idealistic views of the of the ballet image. A specific example of this is the Hollywood film “Black Swan”, where a ballerina is portrayed as having an eating disorder. Ultimately, through “Black Swan”, various magazine articles, and recent studies on the issue, media’s limited and restricted beliefs about body image in ballet are able to resonate through to the general public.
Ballet dancers have always been expected to resemble a certain body type. They are known to be “very thin with small breasts and narrow hips; their legs are long and lean; their arms are long and slender; their torsos are short with a flat stomach and abdomen; their heads are small atop a long, slender neck.”(Ritenburg 75) George Balanchine, a famous artistic director and choreographer for the New York City Ballet, first desired this physique for the modern ballerina. “As dance master at the company, he worked with his dancers daily on shaping the technique – and their desire – to support his aesthetic. Balanchine’s preferences have had far-reaching influence.” (76) Gelsey Kirkland, a soloist at the New York City Ballet was known to have eating disorders, which were encouraged by Balanchine. (Heiland, Murray, Edley 258). Balanchine forced a thin body type on Kirkland; she recalls in her book that he stopped class to inspect her body:
With his knuckles, he thumped on my sternum and down my rib cage, clucking his tongue, remarking, ‘Must see the bones.’ I was less than a hundred pounds even then. He did not merely say, ‘Eat less.’ He said repeatedly, ‘Eat nothing.’ (1986, 55–6) (Heiland, Murray, Edley 258)
This image of the desired ballet body has been a demand by artistic directors, yet the media has allowed the public to become more aware of it. The fact that anyone has access to this information through the World Wide Web, creates a consciousness of the issue.
Having seen the desired image of a ballet body, now we can delve deeper into the way media is molding this representation. Through her journal, Frozen landscapes: a Foucauldian genealogy of the ideal ballet dancer's...

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