The relationship between ballet and fairy tale is by no means a new or unique discoveryâ€”to either dance history or literary studies. However, aside from relatively brief mentions of ballets as examples of fairy-tale adaptation, ballet's relevance to fairy-tale studies has been somewhat undervalued. While scholars often relegate ballet to a smaller part in fairy tale's influence through the performing arts, fairy-tale ballet deserves to have its own, independent academic conversation because ballet contributes uniquely to both fairy-tale history and canon. Ballet can be credited with both giving new life to an old tale and creating a brand new one through an amalgamation of formalistic fairy-tale motifs and figuresâ€”particularly when it comes to female figures. Through an analysis of nineteenth-century Romanticism, fairy-tale form, and the narratives created by three of the most famous fairy bride ballets--La Sylphide, Giselle, and Swan Lake--we can distinguish how Romantic ballet affects fairy-tale studies because of the special conditions this "feminized" art placed on narrative and character. The pervasion of the fairy bride character and motif in ballet indicates a potentially unique tale type, and these three fairy brides together reveal a different dimension to our view of female fairy-tale characters by actively shaping their own stories according to Romantic values that place them outside of traditional fairy-tale roles. Thus, fairy-tale ballets significantly substantiate Romantic imagination beyond the bounds of literary form, and therefore both emphasize and nuance the fairy-tale female paradigm by making unique contributions to the fairy-tale canon.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Smith, Jacqueline Nichole, "Fairy Tales en pointe: Fairy Brides, Ballerinas, and Ballets that Made the Tale" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 8968.
Romanticism, nineteenth century, fairy tale, ballet, La Sylphide, Giselle, Swan Lake, dance history, supernatural, fairy bride, feminist, paradigm, fairy-tale canon