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Terror, rather than horror

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"When selecting passages from history for the purpose of adapting them to the Ballet, it is not necessary to make choice of those horrible deeds that have disgraced mankind, nor to extract from fiction those atrocities of which human nature appears almost incapable. The composer should reject those shocking and sanguinary events which generally form the subjects of the Spanish and English dramas. He should avoid also the slightest imitation of that gloomy and improbable stuff with which certain authors are filled; those poets who take a pleasure in describing all that is most desperate and dreadful in nature are not to be followed. Perhaps this species of subject may be adapted to the deepest tragedy; but even then, good taste would reprove and reject productions carried, by an overheated imagination, beyond the bounds prescribed to imitative arts. We must, in short, banish from the Ballet the Fausts, the Manfreds, and the Frankensteins."



The code of Terpsichore. The art of dancing, comprising its theory and practice, and a history of its rise and progress, from the earliest times ... by C. Blasis. 1831

After a post by Leonid led me to Blasis and his writing I followed the link and found this chapter. What struck me then was relating Blasis's thoughts to ballets such as Mayerling, Ivan the Terrible and Macbeth.... There are moments in these that are "horrible" and "shocking" in nature and personally I find these moments quite confronting but deeply moving. And I have thought in the past that it is intriguing that ballet was being used as a vehicle for these stories. However, the physicality of dance gives these subjects a meaning that is not available through words.

I was wondering if others agree with Blasis and feel that there are subjects that should not be used in ballet.

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I don't know, because there are always exceptions. If you read Aristotle's Poetics and take it literally, you'll never seen anything at all of much of what you like. Things always slip away from these art-rule books, although they might get some of the general things right.

Thanks for the link, I just read some more of what you quoted. Things like this usually have more to do with their era than anything else. I didn't read anything there I didn't think was already outmoded, but very little of what we see in ballet now was extant in 1831, so certainly 'Faust interdit' is sort of like reading old Victorian texts, including some of the political ones in which all aspects of white imperialism are taken for granted as being God-given. Peculiar to see 'terror' as opposed to 'horror', though, since the word 'terror' is on everybody's lips these days, and no one is in touch with what difference Blasis might make between the two. It's doubtful few care, and in any case, modern dance has already dealt with tons of terror and horror, so maybe ballet will have to keep up. At a first glance, I can't see anything in the Blasis beyond a curio.

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