Ballerinas in the church hall : ideologies of femininity, ballet, and dancing schools
The 'Church Hall' is a metonym for the Private Dancing School, ubiquitous in the UK, whose principal clients are young girls. The thesis interrogates the notion that taking part in ballet is a capitulation to the 'stereotypically feminine', by analysing the testimony of girls aged between 8 and II who attend local dancing schools. It presents their comparative assessment of the pedagogies in their primary schools and dancing classes. The thesis interrogates the stability of the idea of 'feminine' and its relationship with the political position of women, employing the theoretical, conceptual foundation for the obverse of a phallogocentric value system developed by psychiatrist Ian D.Suttie (1935), and the possibilities of loosening binary oppositions offered by the semiotic (Greimas') square. The thesis also proposes that the 'symbolic spread' (Frye, 1976: 59) of ballet, and hostility to it, are cognate with the concerns, dynamics, and reception of literary romance, and that both are perceived by the 'guardians oftaste and learning' (Northrop Frye's phrase, 1976:23) in terms which demonstrate Suttie's 'taboo on tenderness'. The thesis brings into representation the history and relationship to the state of British dance culture's 'Private Sector', in dialectical relationship to the largely negative terms in which it is cast by the academic dance community and the maintained education sector. The thesis challenges most private dance schools' exclusion from access to an authentic ballet 'text' by arguing it to be, like ballet's history in the working theatre, marginalised on ideological as much as artistic grounds. It recognises the place of the dancing class in social history, and presently, as a locus of social capital (Putnam, 2000) and, with reference to information from parents and popular culture, as a 'Women's Room' (French, 1977). The study is in part ethnographic, in part literary criticism, and in part historical; it considers representations in fiction, criticism, historiography, and other sources; it also draws on research in cultural and critical theory, education, anthropology, the history of art, sociology, hermeneutics, and other philosophy. It is post-positivist and qualitative. Neither its historical and social findings, nor its theoretical approach, have appeared before in the critical record.