PERFORMING ARTS

Ballet Class: An American History

Oxford Univ. Mar. 2020. 400p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780190908683. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780190908706. MUSIC
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Have pink tights and tutus always been a part of American girl culture, or does it just seem that way in certain neighborhoods and social circles? How have ballet classes for casual participants balanced grace, athleticism, modesty, affordability, and realistic goals over the past 100 years? Klapper (history, Rowan Univ.; Jewish Girls Coming of Age in America) explores ballet’s place in American lives, as well as the positive and sometimes limiting perceptions of who can and should take ballet classes. This scholarly work moves quickly through a chronology of American interest in ballet and organizes chapters thematically around the business of teaching ballet, race and ballet, masculine and feminine stereotypes, body image, eating disorders, and more. More than 70 pages of notes and bibliography document Klapper’s research using books, archives, newspapers, and picture books and young adult novels that depict ballet. While many view ballet class as a pursuit for upper-class, slender white girls, Klapper documents historical and current exceptions and looks at dance role models, from Misty Copeland and Michaela DePrince to contestants on Dancing with the Stars.
VERDICT Of interest to dance historians and dedicated ballet aficionados. Consider for academic libraries.

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