jdickerson

Why do we need Ballet?

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I am doing a project for my college English class where I am to research a subject ( I chose ballet), and come up with a rearsch question (Who do we need ballet?) . I am also to do a field experiment on ballet and interview three different subjects persoanlly.Finally, am to gather information from three sources, (book, video,article, journal etc). My question to you is, how would you respond to this question? Also how would YOU go amongst researching this topic, meaning from what perspectives or angles would you look at it?

<3, LEGEND

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We don't need ballet. And that's why it's so vitally important that we have it.

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Well do you have a better question that I can pose. I'm looking for a question about ballet that is not tooo borad but yet not too narrow. Also I'm not really sure I understand your statement.

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j,

Why do we need any form of art? Why not ask the fundamental question of philosophy "why is there something instead of nothing?" and apply that to ballet.

The simple answer is we don't need ballet, what does ballet actually do? But it exists and has done for hundreds of years, so why then does it exist?

The question itself is meaningless because the answer would be meaningless - we don't need it, yet we have it and it exists, evolves and enriches, though were it not to exist would something else enrich equally? If it didn't exist would something else have come into existence to replace it.

Instead of actually asking a question which is so open ended why not ask yourself what you'd like to know about ballet, and take your question for the essay from there?

If all you want to know is "why do we need it?" the answer can only be we don't, the world existed before ballet came into being as a codified art form and were it to be eradicated from the face of the earth tomorrow the world would continue to exist.

Why do we need Picasso, Elliot, Wagner, opera, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Ghandi, Einstein, painting, sculpture, poetry, literature, sheet music, orchestral music, pop music, Jazz, Gaugin, Da Vinci, Martha Graham, Swift, Pepys, etc etc etc ad infinitum

The simple answer to any of those is that we don't, but how much poorer the world would be if we didn't have them.

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Simon, I doubt that you and I disagree on anything basic about what might be up here, but I'd say it another way, because 'yes, we do even NEED ballet', but the 'meaningless question' is asking it about ballet by itself. All the other arts and artists you name would be part of the same question 'why do we need art?' So that 'why do we need ballet?' as a specific question simply can only mean 'is ballet outmoded'? Clearly, we think not here, but 'needing ballet' and 'needing the other arts' can be answered, but fairly simply. Because they would not come into being as 'gratuitous, charming things' which enrich us, I'm sure you don't mean that. But they are all part of social, cultural, ideological, political movements, they do grow out of all of these, not as esthetic baubles, of course, that exist outside of everything else of life. Yes, they can be 'greater than life' in a sense, but they don't exist without life. This was the one thing I do think Adoroo was good at explicaing, viz., the matter of the artist at the service of the Artwork, and both of these entities do come into being because of a need to express something. They aren't merely individual things, flukes.

But, J. Dickerson, just 'Why do we need Ballet?' as a literal question, I do agree with Simon it's meaningless. And his suggestion

Instead of actually asking a question which is so open ended why not ask yourself what you'd like to know about ballet, and take your question for the essay from there?
is, I think, sound. Otherwise, you could do various things like 'What is unique about ballet?' or 'Why has ballet filled a cultural need in the nations where it has become a celebrated art form?' This is hasty and rough, but I agree with Simon that the original question is DOA in that form. But there should be some form of it you can find it you yourself are interested in ballet and learing about it, which you may be if you chose it as a topic. If not, it's probably not the best topic, period, because you might not see the appeal. Some of the articles that Mashinka posted from either the Daily Mail or Standard or Guardian, that one of the punk girl writing up opera, was an example of something pretty worthless, not to mention witless.

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I am doing a project for my college English class ...... My question to you is, how would you respond to this question? Also how would YOU go amongst researching this topic, meaning from what perspectives or angles would you look at it?

<3, LEGEND

Aren't you supposed to do your own homework?

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I am doing a project for my college English class ...... My question to you is, how would you respond to this question? Also how would YOU go amongst researching this topic, meaning from what perspectives or angles would you look at it?

<3, LEGEND

Aren't you supposed to do your own homework?

:wink:

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Good luck with your research project, jdickerson. If I may make a suggestion: narrowing your question, or breaking it into a set of smaller questions that are more researchable, may help you in your project. The question itself is simply too big to generate much meaning. It's the kind of thing someone might write an essay about at the end of a very long academic or critical career.

As I'm sure you know, Ballet Talk is only one of numerous sources that would help you to think in more detail about your Big Question, forumulate questions, and develop your own answers. Our Search Engine might be of help in this.

I hope that you'll share your thoughts with us as you go along. :wink:

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One John Adams said once a couple of things that could be related to your question:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

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The answer is we need ballet so I can enjoy its beauty of how the human can find aesthetics with in a rigid formal system of rules.

We don't need anything but food, water exercise and health. Everything is needn't because the human spirit likes to create something from his external and internal environment so that his mind and body can find pleasure in it.

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Thanks to all for all your helpful comments and suggestions. I believe that I am now on the road to coming to my final conclusion of my research question. papeetepatrick used the question "What is unique about ballet?" I believe that itself is pulling me closer to where i want to be in constructing this question. My instructor mentions not to look at ballet in an historical sense or as an idea, but as a form of art," My caution is that I don't want you to merely write a (historical) report about ballet. That's not the purpose of LE2(Long Eassay 2). You will discuss what is ballet, what's involved in both the creation and the performance, I imagine. But I sense you also want to examine why ballet is significant, why we value it as a cultural art, and why it should continue. Engage with broader issues than just describing the different kinds." As a dancer i want to use this project to gain a better understanding of ballet.

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Glad we could be of service, jdickerson. And I should add that the archives of BT should make at least part of your research very easy and convenient. They are very rich, these archives, and some of the most knowledgeable on ballet history are leonid, bart, Mel, Alexandra and some others I shouldn't leave out, but you'll find them. 'Discovering the Art' is also useful, just skim through it to find some good discussions. Maybe bart can suggest more specific ones to focus on.

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Unfortunately I don't have the article on hand, but considering the economy (assuming you're American!) there have been a number of articles lately dealing with the importance of the arts as a whole, because of budget cuts for programming and because people are trying to save money. So there are definitely some good resources to make this a very relevant and current topic! (If I find that article, I'll post a link).

What I took from that article though is that we don't need the arts. But they give life purpose, and empower us in a way to distinguish us from animals. Everything else we do can be seen in the animal kingdom...working to survive, a capacity for love, compassion for others and playing. But when animals sing, dance or create an artistic display of some kind, it's to attract a mate for procreation. They can't create art out of passion.

But back to the topic of funding, even with a lack of funding the arts can never be eradicated. There was amazing art being created during the Great Depression, and it might just be that desperation is what fosters the growth of the finest art. This is something Carlos Acosta feels has made him a better dancer than many others because for him, ballet is truly his life, while in a society like America which has many luxuries, art becomes a hobby and artists are regarded as hobbyists. An interesting sub topic might be how money has affected ballet, which is regarded as one of the more opulent and expensive arts and how it could/would continue when there isn't so much money to go around. Or why it should continue as is, when it is indeed so expensive.

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But back to the topic of funding, even with a lack of funding the arts can never be eradicated. There was amazing art being created during the Great Depression...

Correct me if I'm wrong about any of this, but at least some of that Depression-era art was created under government sponsorship by way of the 'put people to work' programs.

I don't know if any ballet or other dance was created as a result of these programs during the Depression, but that might be an interesting avenue to explore: governments tend to focus on 'needs' and if scarce funds were allocated for the arts, then somebody must have thought the arts and artists were 'needed' in some sense beyond simply providing the basic necessities of life (e.g., food and shelter) for the general population.

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at least some of that Depression-era art was created under government sponsorship by way of the 'put people to work' programs.

And in the US and the former Soviet Union and Cuba, the arts -- most especially ballet -- got a second financial wind as a result of the Cold War.

But they are all part of social, cultural, ideological, political movements, they do grow out of all of these, not as esthetic baubles, of course, that exist outside of everything else of life. Yes, they can be 'greater than life' in a sense, but they don't exist without life.

Patrick, I tried to find a juicy Adorno quote to follow your thought but they're difficult to cite intact, and I can only wade out so far. Doesn't Adorno also say something like art is at war with its own materials, what it comes out of, and this gives it its form -- which makes it a little less cozy of an ideal.

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But back to the topic of funding, even with a lack of funding the arts can never be eradicated. There was amazing art being created during the Great Depression...

Correct me if I'm wrong about any of this, but at least some of that Depression-era art was created under government sponsorship by way of the 'put people to work' programs.

I don't know if any ballet or other dance was created as a result of these programs during the Depression, but that might be an interesting avenue to explore: governments tend to focus on 'needs' and if scarce funds were allocated for the arts, then somebody must have thought the arts and artists were 'needed' in some sense beyond simply providing the basic necessities of life (e.g., food and shelter) for the general population.

That's actually a great point...I hadn't thought of that!

I was also recently reminded of a quote from Theophile Gautier (balletomane as well as the writer of the libretto for Giselle), which might inspire some ideas...

Nothing is really beautiful unless it is useless; everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and the needs of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and weak nature. The most useful place in the house is the lavatory.

He was very big on creating art for art's sake, and I would definitely recommend in depth research on him not just for his reasonings on valuing the arts but because of his deep connection with ballet. There's bound to be something specific that can be applied to an argument.

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"Reason not the need,"[says King Lear, to his daughter, who's just insulted him again].

"Our basest beggars

are in the poorest things superfluous.

Allow not nature more than Nature needs,

mans' life's cheap as beast's. Thou (indicating his daughter, the princess, who's just thrown him out of her house) art a lady:

if only to go warm were gorgeous,

Why nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,

which scarcely keeps thee warm. but for true need,

ye heavens give me paitence, patience i need!

You see me here you gods, a poor old man,

as full of grief as age, wretched as both.

if it be you that stir these daughters' hearts against their father, fool me not so much

to bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger, and let not women's weapons, water-drops,

Stain my man's cheeks. No you unnatural hags,

I will have such revenges on you both, that all the world shall -- I will do such things,

What they are, I know not yet, but they shall be

The terrors of hte earth. you think I'll weep;

No I'll not weep;

I have full cause of weeping[storm heard at a distance] but htis heart

Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws

Or ere i'll weep. (o fool, I shall go mad.)

(And he heads out into the rain and the storm because he's so angry and so helpless he'll show them.....)

................................................

That's what art is for. And Swan Lake goes as far in this direction as King Lear goes, but not with words.....

good luck with your paper.

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I was also recently reminded of a quote from Theophile Gautier (balletomane as well as the writer of the libretto for Giselle), which might inspire some ideas...
Nothing is really beautiful unless it is useless; everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and the needs of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and weak nature. The most useful place in the house is the lavatory.

He was very big on creating art for art's sake, and I would definitely recommend in depth research on him not just for his reasonings on valuing the arts but because of his deep connection with ballet. There's bound to be something specific that can be applied to an argument.

Well, a chacun son gout. Thanks for putting the Gautier quote, I wasn't familiar with it, and my reaction to it is that is totally and utterly abhorrent--the precious aesthete in his fullest putrefaction. It is pretentious and false, and probably the best thing that can be said about it is that it's obviously more thoroughly embarassing now than it was when it was intoned. Although I don't know how anyone after Plato would go on about how 'useful things are ugly', since they are anything but. This is strictly 19th century 'full romantic jacket', as it were. Actually, I'd certainly say 'before Plato' as well. The 'needs of man' are not 'ignoble and disgusting', and they weren't when Gautier wrote this either. They are neither noble nor ignoble especially, they are simply the needs of man. Come to think of it, that in itself makes them noble. At worst, they are neutral. Not only, as well, is the lavatory anything but disgusting for that very reason of serving man in the beauty of his physicalism, and therefore being useful, it is also not even literally more useful than the kitchen.

I have rarely, if ever, read a quote I found more appalling regarding 'usefulness' and 'uselessness' as regards beauty and art, I don't care how famous Gautier was. 'Art for art's sake' has it's historical place, but even if elements of it are still extant (and they should be, of course, in order to protect art as itself, not merely offshoots of ideology, etc), it is not a contemporary 'movement' in the sense it once was, not at all. It is not relevant in any culture today as it once was, even if it does have its historical interest. I haven't read what Gaujtier has to say about ballet, but he didn't see any Balanchine and much else. What he says about ballet may be of historical interest, but I don't see how something so dated could possibly be especially useful for a basic paper such as jdickerson wants to do. My impression was that he needed to write a paper that would prove why ballet is important NOW, and that needs to include all the years since Gautier wrote his fatuous, limply effete purple (or is it just pink) prose, not something stuck back in the 19th century. One thing I'd say: what Gautier has written in this quote is indeed 'useless', one of the most useless things I have ever come upon, and it is in no way beautiful IMO. Just contrast it with the delicacy of 'fine things' you read throughout Proust, and the difference is like night and day.

I think he could have written exquisitely about doilies and figurines, if this is at all representative of his 'aesthetic theory', and he probably did do so.

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I wonder what Gaultier would have thought of Edith Wharton's statement that one of the primary objects of art is to make useful things beautiful. Of course, she was writing about interior architecture and design, but I think her idea could apply in many other areas as well. Movement and theatre are useful, and dance makes both more beautiful, IMO.

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I wonder what Gaultier would have thought of Edith Wharton's statement that one of the primary objects of art is to make useful things beautiful. Of course, she was writing about interior architecture and design, but I think her idea could apply in many other areas as well. Movement and theatre are useful, and dance makes both more beautiful, IMO.

Well said, Hans, couldn't agree more (obviously). And that brings to mind the Japanese interest in making the ordinary beautiful. Not that they are the only ones, of course, but they do have a special refinement that way, which goes against being sloppy at all levels of society, not just the loftiest. And what you say of Wharton as well, since even most people who are not even artists want to make their own useful things as beautiful as they can in their own eyes, even when they are common objects; what Gautier said boggles the mind, and is sympathic surely only in its over-perfumed historical context.

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The Bauhaus ideal and that of the Chicago school was not to make beautiful things but honest and utilitarian ones -- their beauty came in years later. Manet and the Impressionists did not create beauty -- they were juxtaposing things from high and low society, factories and leisure painted in coarse brushwoork -- that had never been shown together before. Mahler was a plumber's bag of odd sizes and harsh tricks. Balanchine's works had some of this coarse, ugly ducking quality.

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