Publication Date

April 2018


Oliver Holmes


Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality


English (United States)


Both ballet and exotic dance intersect historically, and these historical parallel moments bind them together as dance disciplines that explore sexuality. Exploring both industries by examining how women being in public, in the theatre, and the presence of women on stage likened them to prostitutes, whether they were ballerinas or burlesque dancers. The physical similarities between dancers as well as their costuming begs the question which is: how has exotic dance gone unnoticed as a dance discipline? And: why has the sexualization of the ballet dancer been downplayed? Class, political support, and location drives these differences between the two industries that makes ballet and exotic dance seem so incongruent to each other. However, women being in public and on stage creates their connection as art forms and as hallmarks of femininity in the historical as well as contemporary Europe and the United States. Discomfort with ?public women? is a historical production carried through to conceptions of contemporary female performers. This stereotype of the ?public woman? is heightened for the exotic dancer whose body is used as her method of making money, however, what differentiates her from the ballerina in that regard? Throughout this thesis, keeping the sexual ?trance? and the ?public woman? in mind both historically and contemporarily provides a basis of comparison for these two dance practices. In this work, race, class and sexualization are examined to better understand the dancer's embodiment, and the different forms of labor required of her that aren't listed in her job criteria. By examining these systems of oppression historically and contemporarily, both the ballerina and the exotic dancer reveal themselves as agents acting in a larger field of inequality within their disciplines, beyond their control or personal critiques. Looking to the future, empowering the dancer to explore her own meaning of movement, embodiment and creativity prioritizes the power of what artistic possibilities dance has to offer.



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