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A historical and relational study of ballet and contemporary dance in Greece and the UK

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  • Hm Sociology
  • Design
  • Economics
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


This study examines the social conditions for the nature and development of theatrical dance as a historically constructed field. The first part consists of a sociologically informed narrative of the making of dance from its initiation as a courtly practice (court ballet) to its contemporary form (ballet and modern dance), with an emphasis on the social, political and aesthetic contexts in which it was shaped. This narrative outlines the logic of symbolic negotiation, focusing specifically on conflicts over the content, bodily forms and techniques of dance, which take place in different spaces and modes of production. These symbolic negotiations are conceived as reconfigurations of social and political struggles but they are of course expressed through the practices of specific individuals within the field. This historical analysis sets the scene for an examination of the particular logic or rules that govern dance production in contemporary Britain and Greece. Although ballet in Greece has been relatively dependent on the development of the from in Britain, the two countries are approached as separate cases. The experience of thirty working dancers and choreographers (twelve in Greece and eighteen in the UK) is charted within very divergent conditions, namely training and performing as institutionalized in each country. These dancers and choreographers shape their bodies and tailor their practices in relation to ideal types of performers. They form highly diverse dance styles, especially given their interest in differentiating their own practice from current dance forms. Such styles stand in competition to each other, resulting in conflicting definitions of dance – and of course – dancing experiences. These particular meanings of dancing and dance making are highlighted by artists’ various trajectories within the fields or subfields. The interviews reveal the interdependency of the British and Greek systems of dance production. As will be shown, the individual dancers’ and choreographers’ trajectories depend on their possession of capitals (economic, social, cultural). It is claimed that the “talented dancing body” in each society is shaped with reference to the particular aesthetic and technical components promoted by the different dance styles.

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