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Why do we need Ballet?


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#16 youdancefunny

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 11:45 PM

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.

#17 Paul Parish

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 12:28 AM

"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.

#18 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 08:48 AM

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.

#19 Hans

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 08:58 AM

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.

#20 papeetepatrick

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 09:04 AM

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.

#21 Quiggin

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Posted 06 October 2009 - 09:52 AM

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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