Publication Date

April 2015


Nicole Stanton, Margot Weiss


Dance, American Studies (AMST)


English (United States)


This thesis juxtaposes the early American freak show with the ballet in America. The work first traces the distinct histories of the two art forms, locating central class differences that separate the two and further categorize their art as “low art’ and ’high art.” The second chapter theorizes about monstrosity; I suggest that monstrosity is a visual mixture that can be located on the body. In this chapter, several close readings of images of freak show women then allow us to transpose our understanding of monstrosity onto the ballerina’s supposed hyper-feminine body. The third chapter uses Foucauldian analysis of ballet training and then applies our understanding of that technique to the Fat Lady and the Bearded Lady in an attempt to understand the ways in which their performances, too, are trained and not inherent. Finally, in my fourth chapter, I discuss the embodied choreography that accompanied this work as it was a dual American Studies and Dance thesis. I discuss in detail my creation of two choreographic endeavors as they guided my theoretical analysis. My work intervenes both in freak show scholarship and in dance scholarship bringing together theoretical work and embodied practice.



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