Theses Doctoral

The Stage and the Dance in Medias Res: An Ethnographic Study of Ideologies Associated with Tradition and Continuity in a French Ballet Academy in the United States

Phillips, Stephanie Jean

The anthropological study of dance is particularly relevant to scholars who work on theories of embodiment and social practice, as well as those concerned with the production of history and ideologies, for dance concerns the deliberate movement of the body across space and in time, and within a particular socio-cultural context. Based on a year and a half of ethnographic research at a pre-professional ballet school in New York City that specializes in teaching the "classical French" form, this study applies an anthropological understanding of ideologies and processes in education to classical forms of ballet.

Its analysis of how the ideological system associated with the aesthetics of ballet is created and recreated, in relation to shifting concepts of tradition, suggests that the process of establishing and maintaining institutional boundaries and "sculpting" the bodies of students in the classroom frames the ways that students are related to, and develop relationships with, the ideologies that they encounter.

Both the school, as an institution, and individual students are able to navigate and position themselves within the landscape formulated by these ideologies through the development of social networks, the formulation of individual institutional genealogies, and the development and presentation of choreography in selected venues. These processes illustrate the ways in which ideological systems are articulated, developed, and altered in relation to understandings of the human body.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Comitas, Lambros
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 7, 2014