La Karsavina: Ballet and Visions of Femininity in Belle Époque Paris

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dc.contributor.advisor Zizek, J en Rasmussen, Sasha en 2016-10-20T21:04:53Z en 2016 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description Full text is available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland only. en
dc.description.abstract During the Belle Époque, the French capital regularly played host to a group of foreign dancers – the Ballets Russes – who delighted and dazzled Parisian audiences with summer seasons of stylistically innovative and lavishly-staged dance performances. The popularity and artistic prestige of ballet at this time was unprecedented: dance was a pervasive presence in Belle Époque society, and can therefore be considered a poignant cultural indicator, a symptom of early aesthetic modernism. Correspondingly, the figure of the danseuse became a ubiquitous cultural icon of the era, vested with symbolic meaning for contemporaries and scholars of modernism alike. This thesis will consider the ideological significance of one of those myriad dancers, focusing on the public career of Tamara Karsavina (1885-1978), principal danseuse of the Ballets Russes and a figure of fascination to the Parisian press of the Belle Époque. While the celebrated ensemble has already been the subject of significant scholarly inquiry, these studies have been chiefly concerned with the ballets themselves as artistic works, and with the troupe’s male creators: composer, choreographer, director. This thesis begins to redress such imbalances by examining Karsavina’s portrayal in the contemporary press – in critical journals and published images – and considering how the outline critics imagined for her resonated with wider cultural debates, or was put at the service of other contemporary agenda. Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘constellation’, this thesis will juxtapose a single dancing woman – Karsavina – with the broader cultural context of the Belle Époque, pivoting between her individual significance and the wider framework of cultural references available to contemporaries. I argue that such juxtaposition reveals a number of ambiguities and paradoxes between contemporary mentalities and the ways in which these mentalities were brought to bear on actual dancers and performances. This, in turn, will challenge the dichotomies which so often underpin our understanding of modernism: the scandalous and the respectable; the Self and the Other; the cerebral and the corporeal. The critical reception of three particular moments from Karsavina’s Parisian career – The Tragedy of Salome (1913), The Firebird (1910), and Petrushka (1911) – capture the varied attitudes towards dance, as both an art form and an entertainment, which prevailed in the Belle Époque. A close reading of these moments provides a valuable springboard for an exploration of contemporary attitudes towards topics as diverse as gender, performance, display, cultural commerce, identity, celebrity, and modernity in this transformational era. en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof Masters Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA99264878799602091 en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Previously published items are made available in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. en
dc.rights Restricted Item. Available to authenticated members of The University of Auckland. en
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dc.title La Karsavina: Ballet and Visions of Femininity in Belle Époque Paris en
dc.type Thesis en History en The University of Auckland en Masters en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en
pubs.elements-id 543451 en
pubs.record-created-at-source-date 2016-10-21 en

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