Pseudo-feminism in Orientalist Romantic Ballet

Eliana V. Trenam, University of Iowa

Abstract

My research contextualizes the ballets of the Romantic period (1830-1850) by examining how gender representation onstage correlated with a contemporaneous proto-feminist movement in France. During this period there was a proliferation of Orientalist art and literature in Europe. In ballet a parallel Orientalist aesthetic emerged that borrowed from these other forms and developed independently. Simultaneously, Saint-Simonianism, an influential proto-feminist movement, arose in Paris. While the emergence of ballerinas dancing men’s roles might have supported this new feminist outlook, this possible empowerment was undermined by the “inferior” Oriental nature of these roles and the eroticization and subjugation of the Orient itself.

 

Pseudo-feminism in Orientalist Romantic Ballet

My research contextualizes the ballets of the Romantic period (1830-1850) by examining how gender representation onstage correlated with a contemporaneous proto-feminist movement in France. During this period there was a proliferation of Orientalist art and literature in Europe. In ballet a parallel Orientalist aesthetic emerged that borrowed from these other forms and developed independently. Simultaneously, Saint-Simonianism, an influential proto-feminist movement, arose in Paris. While the emergence of ballerinas dancing men’s roles might have supported this new feminist outlook, this possible empowerment was undermined by the “inferior” Oriental nature of these roles and the eroticization and subjugation of the Orient itself.