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.