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Petra Joy The Female Voyeur 58


Late-Victorian writings on dance, whether literary or critical, generally posited the ballet and the female ballerina by extension as both conventional entertainments and exotic spectacles. In her book on the music-hall ballet, Alexandra Carter points out that notwithstanding the popularity of the ballet among women audience members the images of the ballet and of the female dancers that performed it were produced by a male elite who were "drawn to the 'world apart' produced by the exotic subject matter, colour, spectacle, and erotic connotations." (2) The figure of the ballerina was described in terms of dainty Victorian femininity, her movements not that different from the social dancing performed at balls; Carter notes that "the personal qualities of the ballerinas in action are repetitive: the girl-like qualities of gaiety and vivacity, and the lady-like ones of charm and grace were noticed more than any other attributes." (3) The pervading note in dance criticism in the late nineteenth century focused on the ballerina's attractive form but contained her performance within the bounds of middleclass entertainment; she was pleasing, but not provocative, precise in her movements, but not virtuosic.




petra joy the female voyeur 58

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