Ballet, Athleticism and Advertising

Recently Miami City Ballet highlighted a new video with principal, Nathalia Arja, and New England Patriot, Rob Gronkowski. (To see the video, click here.) I thought this video was a smart way to continue to raise ballet’s public profile. However, I also wonder whether the ongoing attempts to establish parallelism between professional sports and professional ballet could harm ballet.

Are dancers athletic? Certainly – to the nth. Are they professional athletes? I always understood that they asked to be seen as professional artists whose bodies in some respect furnished the material of the art they expressed. Could the perception of dancers as athletes undermine their perception as artists. Homan’s argument in the conclusion of Apollo’s Angels argues, yes:

I grew up with ballet and have devoted my life to studying, dancing, seeing, and understanding it. I have always loved watching it. When I first began work on this book, I imagined it would end on a positive note. But in recent years I have found going to the ballet increasingly dispiriting. With depressingly few exceptions, performances are dull and lack vitality; theaters feel haunted and audiences seem blasé. After years of trying to convince myself otherwise, I now feel sure that ballet is dying. The occasional glimmer of a good performance or a fine dancer is not a ray of future hope but the last glow of a dying ember, and our intense preoccupation with re-creating history is more than a momentary diversion: we are watching ballet go, documenting its past and its passing before it fades altogether.

Clearly one big difference exists between the two – the systematic, rule-driven competition at the heart of professional sports is not present in ballet at the company level. Of course, with advertising the parallelism doesn’t need to be accurate or make sense in any way but has this advertising trend influenced how ballet is danced?

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