Dancing dolls and extended bodies: A posthuman exploration of lively objects in twentieth and twenty-first century ballets
Bennett, Mara Patricia Mandradjieff
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This dissertation investigates the on-going theme of dolls and doll-like characters in Western ballets starting in nineteenth century France. It specifically analyzes French choreographer Maguy Marin’s Cendrillon (1985), Groosland (1989), and Coppélia (1994), Dutch choreographer Ted Brandsen’s Coppélia (2008), and Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s Dark Matters (2009). These twentieth and twenty-first century works present the contemporary applications and continued relevancy of doll ballets in current Western culture, while sparking conversations around objects and object-centered practices that transform and extend the human body, such as costuming or the act of puppetry. With the research methodology of choreographic analysis and a posthuman, feminist philosophical framework, I examine ways these ballets explore notions of what constitutes human, nonhuman, subject, and object through movement, narrative, and costume. I unpack the complex becoming co-construction of the material and semiotic actualizing on and off stage and claim these pieces dismantle human-nonhuman, subject-object, and lively-dead binaries by highlighting matter as, to use philosopher Karen Barad’s terms, agential and intra-active. This dissertation reveals how doll ballets position both the human and nonhuman as uncanny lively objects and provide a posthuman perspective towards bodies and understandings of objectification in ballet.