Grace M. Ledbetter

Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities

20092010 Forum on Connections

Grace M. Ledbetter

Assoc Professor of Classics and Philosophy, Swarthmore College

Ballet and the Greeks

Every generation of artists configures its own relationship to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Is Classicism a stable value, or is it continually reinvented? If we have lost a romantic, sentimental attachment to ancient Greece as a transhistorical cultural ideal, what significance can Greek myth have for us today? Ballet and the Greeks is a book length study that examines how classical antiquity has influenced the origins and historical development of ballet, from the court ballets of the Renaissance, to the 20th century Neoclassicism of George Balanchine. Balanchine’s Apollo, Orpheus, and Agon mark three pivotal moments of classicism in the cultural context of the1940s and 1950s. Each of these ballets, somewhat paradoxically, employs Greek sources to innovate its art form radically.