chapter  1
16 Pages

Embodying Precarity, Pain and Perfection

Young Dancers’ Commitment to the Ballet Body as Aesthetic Project
ByAngela Pickard

This chapter examines the embodied practices of young dancers and their aspirations to become professional, performing ballet dancers. It explores the social world of ballet, young dancers’ commitment to the social construction of the body as aesthetic project and some lived experiences of precarity, pain and perfection. Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptual schema of field, habitus and capital is used as a way of making greater sense of the social world of ballet, the relationship of a dancer’s body to the powerful ballet aesthetic and identity as a ballet dancer. Ten young dancers, five girls and five boys, all of whom want to be professional, performing ballet dancers, were interviewed in the context of their non-residential, elite ballet school. The findings and discussion are presented as integrated together with literature and suggest that young dancers’ perception and understandings are that the social world of ballet is about devoting yourself, your body and your mind to the art of ballet as an aesthetic project. The young dancers accepted and believed that ‘hard work’ will bring personal capital and enable success.