By Adrienne L. McLean

From mid-twentieth-century movies comparable to Grand inn, Waterloo Bridge, and The purple footwear to contemporary box-office hits together with Billy Elliot, store the final Dance, and the corporate, ballet has discovered its manner, many times, onto the silver display and into the hearts of many another way not likely audiences. In death Swans and Madmen, Adrienne L. McLean explores the curious pairing of classical and modern, paintings and leisure, excessive tradition and pop culture to bare the ambivalent position that this paintings shape occupies in American life.Drawing on examples that diversity from musicals to tragic melodramas, she indicates how advertisement movies have produced a picture of ballet and its artists that's linked either with pleasure, success, repute, and gear and with sexual and psychological perversity, depression, and loss of life. even supposing ballet remains to be bought by means of many with an absence of curiosity or outright suspicion, McLean argues that those attitudes in addition to ballet's reputation and its acceptability as a lifestyle and a occupation have usually relied on what audiences first realized approximately it from the films.

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Additional resources for Dying Swans and Madmen: Ballet, the Body, and Narrative Cinema

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Lincoln Kirstein, Blast at Ballet, 1938 Our American democracy seems able to produce ballerinas . . as well as it turns out low-price automobiles. —Sol Hurok, 1946 When I first began to study dance history several decades ago, most books on the subject presented the history of ballet as a sequence of more or less cause-and-effect events involving various influential people and a few important dance works. From these books I learned that ballet was European, elite, and popular among the aristocracy from at least the time of Louis XIV, who loved to dance himself and who founded his own ballet schools so that ballet could move from being something performed by amateurs in a ballroom to a form of professional theatrical exhibition.

Yet there are also intriguing exceptions, nonmusicals that feature these same utopian elements as well as those of a tradition of morbidity, or musicals that are marked by tragic events. Although the body remains a key visual category in all these films, and continues to organize some of the complex negotiations between indi- IN T RODUCT ION 21 Glamour photo of Vivien Leigh in swan costume for her tragic role in Waterloo Bridge (190). Photo by Laszlo Willinger. Collection of the author. vidual and cultural identity described above, it is the body of ballet itself, its meaning as a profession, avocation, even religion, that motivates and shapes narrative action.

Chapter 6 opens with a discussion of the well-known “ballet boom” of the era and continues through the present day. Despite the number of decades covered, though, the chapter is not the longest in the book. Partly this is because, with the nationwide saturation of television after the 1950s and a number of industrial developments (among them the breakup of the classical Hollywood studio system, the decline of Production Code–mandated morality, changing audience demographics, the influence of other national or narrative cinema styles, and the rise of independent film), Hollywood films arguably became, as they remain, less significant as arbiters of a uniform mass-taste culture.

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