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Recruitment Patterns: their impact on ballet and modern dance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 July 2014

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English sociologist of art Janet Wolff says that all art is situated both historically and in relation to the status groups that produce it and share a taste for it. Tracing the relationships between the situation and the art is the difficult task of the sociology of art.

The theoretical model used by art historians results in their focusing heavily on the body of art itself, showing how styles influence and develop out of each other. Alternatively, the “interpretive” theory of anthropologist Clifford Geertz—described in his essay, “Art as a Cultural System” —emphasizes the idea that the meaning system of the art participates in the larger meaning system of the culture: the larger system provides the key to the art.


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Copyright © Congress on Research in Dance 1990

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References

1. Wolff, Janet, The Social Production of Art (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2. In Geertz, Clifford, Local Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1983), pp. 94120Google Scholar.

3. I first came across this useful distinction between a performer's and a composer's art in Martorella, Roseanne, Sociology of Opera (New York: Praeger, 1982), pp. 2026Google Scholar.

4. Sussmann, Leila, “The Women's Movement, Women's Colleges and Modern dance,” paper presented at Eastern Sociological Society meetings, Spring 1989Google Scholar.

5. Dunning, Jennifer, But First, A School (New York: Viking, 1985), pp. 202203Google Scholar.

6. Numerical prestige scores for occupations go back to the 1950s in American sociology. They are based on the prestige ratings given to occupations by random samples of the population.

7. Sussmann, op. cit.

8. Gordon, Suzanne, Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet (New York: Pantheon Books, 1983), p. 107Google Scholar.

9. Brady, Joan, The Unmaking of a Dancer, Harper and Row, New York, 1982, p. 166Google Scholar.

10. Bentley, Toni. Winter Season (New York: Random House, 1982), p. 37Google Scholar.

11. The survey was conducted by Wallach, Ellen of “Life after Performing,” Lexington, M.A.Google Scholar

12. We have seen that just about 100% of contemporary modern dancers are college trained. The revolution of mass higher education has guaranteed that. However, we have no figure for contemporary ballet dancers. Has college education increased among them as well, or have the necessities of the ballet career made it impossible for them to take advantage of the new availability of college work? Toni Bentley hints that some dancers are attracted to college, perhaps in anticipation of early retirement from ballet: “There is a strange underground echelon developing among us of college-minded girls—older girls. They take courses, study for SATs, celebrate their test scores.” Bentley, op cit., p. 85.

13. There is a large sociological literature which shows that the upper-middle-class trains its children to be independent while the lower-middle- and working-class train them to be obedient. One of the seminal works is Melvin, Kohn, Class and Conformity (Homewood: Dorsey Press, 1969)Google Scholar.

14. Ruyter, Nancy, Reformers and Visionaries (New York: Dance Horizons, 1979), pp. 111124Google Scholar.

15. Ibid, pp. 126-127.

16. In a school like California Institute for the Arts, arts instructors in the sixties complained bitterly of having to “waste their time” with students who had only an amateur interest and little talent. “… the university artist finds his own predilections in student admissions (to admit only those who have already devoted years to their art and have obvious promise) subordinated to the principles of the university-wide liberal education program.” Adler, Judith, Artists in Offices (New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1979), p. 12Google Scholar.

17. Brady, op cit.

18. “In the company [the New York City Ballet], as in the army, you don't have to think. People tell you what to wear, and where to go, and what time to show up. Balanchine offers advice on diet (protein), pets (cats) and hobbies (plants and cooking)…. He has been known at least to hint about love, marriage and pregnancy (don't).” Mazo, Joseph, Dance Is a Contact Sport (New York: Da Capo Press, 1974), p. 100Google Scholar.

19. See Sussmann, Leila, “The Anatomy of the Dance Company Boom, 1958–1980,” Dance Research Journal 16/2 (Fall, 1984), pp. 2328CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20. In 1961 Dance Magazine published the first listing of colleges which offered dance programs leading to a degree. It has published such listings periodically, though not at regular intervals, since.

21. Terry, Walter, Invitation to Dance (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1942), pp. 112115Google Scholar.

22. Dance Magazine College Guide, '85/86, pp. 14-15 and 22.

23. Banes, Sally, “Pointe of Departure,” Boston Review (October, 1986), p. 13Google Scholar.

24. Ibid.

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