This is an interest problem. Pop culture and the classic arts do not mix like oil and water. They might, at best inhabit the same "media" at times but merge they can't. There will always be cross over efforts and the new guys will always find themselves reaching back into our cultural past for "things" to re package and re use in their own present / modernist manner.
I'm not one who thinks of high art as a separate entity from the rest of culture. I tend to look at all the arts as lining up in the form of spectrum, with much in the way of continuity and give and take. Think of a line graph. At one ends there's a biggish hill representing what are called the higher arts. Then there's a valley or depression. And then there is another, vastly taller hill representing the popular or mass arts. There's always been cross-pollination, even when the audiences and participants don't notice that it's occurring. A generation ago, the entire graph would have had a more flattened-out appearance: operettas, the more high-brow Broadway musicals, and frilly ballets in the style of Massine filled that center space. Today, all of that middle ground is pretty much gone.
Ballet, as several have suggested, has never been an art form for the masses. But what about the image
of ballet expressed in the popular culture. Weren't there a higher level of knowledge of the rudiments and an atmospher of general admiration for what ballet dancers achieve? For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, at least?
Let's consider the Simpsons as a case study. After all it's been popular for 20 years now. There were more than a few references in the show's first decade and they were largely neutral/positive. Not so lately.
Thanks, chrisk217, for that comparison. It does suggest that something is going on in the offices where this show is created. Perhaps a sense of changing audience? After so many years on the cutting edge, maybe the creators think the Simpsons themselves have to become more conventional to avoid alientating those viewers who are still loyal?
Unfortunately, there are proponents on both sides that continue to perpetuate the view of ballet being for the elite. Pop culture likes to present ballet as still belonging to the wealthy and to the â€śhighbrows.â€ť Alternatively, proponents of ballet not uncommonly view pop culture as representing the â€śunwashed masses,â€ť whose interests are somehow beneath them. I would go so far as saying that some even use their interest in ballet as â€śproofâ€ť of their â€śmore refinedâ€ť status over the less enlightened, further fueling the image of elitism.
I think it is interesting that where class differences have be institutionally eliminated (at least in theory), such as the Soviet Union and Cuba, the acceptance and appreciation of ballet has grown. The people in these countries apparently ceased to view ballet as a province of the elite and began to claim it for the â€śmassesâ€ť themselves.
I'm sorry, dancesmith, to take your point out of context, making a complex argument appear a little too simple. But you does suggest that what we are seeing in the U.S. -- and in certain other parts of the world -- is not necessarily inevitable ... or irreversible. Tha' might, tfor those who take the long view, a comforting thought. Or not?