The relationship between ballet and fairy tale is by no means a new or unique discovery—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 figures—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

Humanities; English



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Romanticism, nineteenth century, fairy tale, ballet, La Sylphide, Giselle, Swan Lake, dance history, supernatural, fairy bride, feminist, paradigm, fairy-tale canon