Have you ever wondered what it is like to express your emotions without saying a word? The art of dancing is an avenue used by many to do that. There are many different styles of dance, ballet for example is known as one of the most intricate yet classical dance forms. Although, ballet is known to be a highly praised art form, the history of it all can be very fascinating. Throughout this paper I will dive deeper into the history of ballet to focus on how racism and classism may have affected the ballet world we see today.
I personally have always wondered why this particular dance style is predominantly white, but after looking at the history it makes a lot more sense. It is believed that in order to understand the present you must be aware of the past. As someone who is interested in history as a whole but also the art of ballet, I believe it is important to have a decent understanding of why certain patterns are prevalent in the dance world. Ballet was created in the early 15th century, where the high class were the only ones that had access to performances. This art form was used as an entertainment outlet for them, whereas as those that lived in poverty did not have access to this luxury. In addition to not having access to the entertainment aspect, the teaching and learning of ballet was not accessible to people in the lower class. Also, discrimination against a certain group of people because of the color of their skin was very common any time before the 21st century. It is no surprise that racism in ballet was very clear, many believed dark women would ruin the aesthetics of a ballet performance. Acknowledging this history would allow people to understand why discrimination in ballet was so common.
Poverty is a state that no one would wish to be found in. The economic challenges related to poverty are the main challenges that an individual can be subjected to. The art of ballet has a history of only being accessible to the elite. When a system is put in place that essentially goes against the idea that everyone has the same amount of “power” to access the same matters it makes it difficult. To this day, it is evident why ballet is an extracurricular activity that is not predominantly black. Looking into the history of ballet, you begin to understand how societal and economic norms played a role into it. Governments have been on the journey to eradicate poverty. Poverty can be reduced in various ways within a country and often appears due to specific reasons that would be contained and discreetly. Limited support and lack of proper or stable education are among the ways poverty can get into society. Besides, it is easy to believe that poverty within the community can be eliminated through governmental strength and possible means of bettering lives. The state of poverty can be explained through the sociological perspective that will always be a good way to view things. Besides, making some states permanent would enhance the challenge of countering poverty in society. Poverty is explained through various theoretical means of understanding that would improve the explanation process.
To add, a structural theory of poverty states that shortage is individual. The state of societal poverty comes due to laziness, lack of education, ignorance in an individual. The structural condition of poverty happens due to the planned economic holes that create low-income levels among society members (Royce 28). The individual populations in structural poverty appear to be different since they can get out of their situations. The possibility of getting out of the problem comes because of them being economically active. In terms of the art of ballet, due to its history of being an elite art form where poor people were often forgotten about. It is not fair for this theory to apply to those that lived in poverty, because due to their social status they were neglected and forbidden from gaining access to the resources to be a great dancer. It was not based on their “laziness”, but strictly what was considered a social norm of ballet being accessible only to the rich and wealthy. Some individuals’ ability to get out of their economic stagnation is an indication that the government is responsible for setting up the economic structures where they can influence structural poverty. The government has to revise the structural state of poverty to lower the holes that lead to low-income levels for society members (Royce 28). The citizens have to be empowered economically to generate income and create employment within the organization. Structural poverty cannot be a permanent aspect of society. Structural poverty can keep changing due to the dynamics that are there in a country.
Changes that take place in the economy cannot allow the government to be stable. Engaging society members economically remains the only way to curb poverty in a given situation (Ryynänen et al. 100). Changing the structural poverty in the economy will enable individuals to create money for sustainability. The flow of money in the economy will lower the rates of inequality that will allow the spread of wealth across society members. Structural poverty may lead to social evils that may result in a corrupt society. The type of poverty may influence individuals into engaging in crime hence making the community one of the unsafe places (Ryynänen et al., 109). Failure to get action from the government may lead to escalated problems and may result in a financial crisis. Society may experience a financial decrease when there are no government actions to curb the structural poverty action. Some individuals’ ability to get out of their economic stagnation is an indication that the government is responsible for setting up the economic structures where they can influence structural poverty (Ryynänen et al., 110). Getting a financially stable economy comes with the state that would vouch for a changed society that would contain the challenges and pending changes. It is a very interesting viewpoint when looking into how these ideas and systems has effected the arts and the people that have access to it.
Royce, Edward. Poverty and Power: The problem of structural inequality. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.
Ryynänen, Sanna, and Elina Nivala. “Inequality as a social pedagogical question.” International Journal of Social Pedagogy (2019).
Poverty is the unequal distribution of opportunities and resources in society. In explaining poverty, sociologists have tried to balance people’s actions and choices to social structures. Poverty has then revolved around people for a long time; hence, poverty worldwide has increased over time. The art of ballet is believed to be the art for people within a higher social and economic class. People who are born into poverty are least likely to experience the dance. Poverty in ballet can be recognized based on how unattainable this art can seem for some people based on the arts history. This paper will discuss how poverty affects the art of ballet by reviewing two sociological journals.
The structural theory of poverty claims that most poor people find themselves with low economic status, leading to poverty. This economic status is characterized by social, economic, and political structures (Brady, 2019). Levels of poverty are affected by economic status. Most people find themselves in a setting that does not support the art ofballet, this can be based on the lack of resources that people can use to support the art. Ballet is often perceived to be for those with a higher economic status and class within a society, which can easily be connected to how the history of racism has affected African Americans in ballet or the arts as a whole.
On social structures, people are discriminated against according to their demographic conditions; hence race, black and Hispanic people were often not allowed to involve themselves in the dance as it is viewed to be for white people. Since most people are trapped in a cycle of poverty, races that are structurally driven make most people feel left out to some degree.
People may face discrimination in many different ways, such as employment; the discrimination due to gender, race, social status. That same outlook can be related to ballet and people within the dance industry. As shown in various cases, many children who were raised in poor conditions grow up understanding that ballet belonged to people who had high economic status and often times could not afford or have an opportunity to experience the art first-hand. Improving people’s economic and social status could increase the participation of ballet art for all people regardless of theirstatus.
In the journal article, “Dancing in the Margins: Experiences of African American Ballerinas” an interview was conducted on African American dancers who played a significant role on the development of ballet in history (McCarthy-Brown, 2011). It focuses on the experiences which those people received in a country full of racism and restriction within the art of ballet.The data was gathered from the database at Temple University. The information consisted of two African American artists during the 1950s, which were Delores Brownie and Raven Wilkinson. These dancers are renowned in the ballet world and are known to have paved a way for others. The artist were asked about the experiences they had in the ballet dance world and were asked questions about companies they were associated with. There were a large number of light-skinned black dancers in these companies. Lighter skinned dancers received better treatment and many roles in the company compared to darker African-American women. The study found that light-skinned dancers received training during hiring, which shows the preference for color in dancing companies.
In addition, those who had a higher social class were also given a privilege during hiring (McCarthy-Brown, 2011). The study found that African-American dancers who found their way to those dancing companies struggled to stay for a long time due to these preferences, they were often times not favoured simply because the color of their skin; which sounds familiar, race played an important role in the dance industry. Social identity was the determinant to whether African-Americans were allowed to join. The interviews showed that racial notions started a long time ago and therefore being recreated to the dance world today.
Whereas in the article “Ballet’s Too Whitey’: Discursive Hierarchies of High School Dance Spaces and The Constitution of Embodied Feminine Subjectivities”, the research was conducted to connect social class’s driving practices, race and feminism, and dance. The study was used to explore dancing spaces shared by various students within a high school environment (Atencio& Wright, 2009). The main focus was to identify racism and how the deployment of white practices affects school dance.The data was collected from a sample of 16 studentswith a diverse background, a sample of 2 young black girls was examined. Data was collected through interviews where participants were interviewed 5 to 7 times each. The first interviews consisted of health and fitness (Atencio& Wright, 2009). The third and fourth interviews were about neighborhood activities, while the final interview was about ethnicity and race. The data was then analyzed using an interpretive approach. The conducted dance program was started back in the 1970s. The school allowed racial integration where students who were from predominantly African American backgrounds were allowed to participate in the dance. The school also hosted dances where the schools in the neighboring district would come to the school (Atencio& Wright, 2009). The other school dance team comprised white students and students from middle economic classes.Dancing spaces were acquired according to social hierarchies and practices. The dance was only designed for white students and those from the middle social class to prevent the black students from participating in the dance. The study also found that due to discrimination of black students, that essentially made the students find other practices to establish their self-worth (Atencio& Wright, 2009). Those students who were not white were discriminated against due to their race and social class.
In summation, I believe that these two journals can be connected as they both show similarities in how race was used as a determinant in the dance industry. Ballets danced by white people were more appreciated and widely accepted simply because of their skin color and how it plays a role in the aesthetics of ballet. Many believed that their skin tone had a more uniform look compared to black women. In the school, white students were preferred to participate in the dance compared to the black students in the same way the companies preferred light-skinned dancers in the ballets compared to darker skin dancers. Which can easily be tied into the idea of how poverty impacts ballet. The African-American individuals who were allowed either in the dance companies or in the school dance were only those that had a higher economic status. This shows how those who weren’t privileged were often neglected and discriminated against, simply because they did not have the means to explore the art of ballet.
Manshor, Z., Abdullah, S., & Hamed, A. B. (2020). Poverty and the Social Problems. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, 10(3), 614-617.
McCarthy-Brown, N. (2011). Dancing in the Margins: Experiences of African American ballerinas. Journal of African American Studies, 15(3), 385-408.
Bayaz Ozturk, G., & Macdonald, S. P. (2017). Intertemporal Poverty among Older Americans. Journal of Poverty, 21(4), 331-351.
Atencio, M., & Wright, J. (2009). ”Ballet’sit’s too whitey’: Discursive hierarchies ofhigh school dance spaces and the constitution of embodied feminine subjectivities. Gender and Education, 21(1), 31-46.
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