Final Project: Body, Space and the Ballet Studio

A dance studio is, in theory, a blank slate: an almost empty room, save for a mirror and a bar, which the dancer inhabits and shapes through their physical expression. Studio A, the rental dance space in the Plateau which I chose to explore for my final project, encompasses this ideal. While I visited the studio on three occasions, it felt familiar from the moment I stepped foot on its shiny hardwood surface – a room recognizable to all who have donned a pair of pointe shoes. A part of the larger Studio Bizz dance complex located on the corner of Pontiac and Mont-Royal, the space is comfortingly characteristic: four walls (one adorned with a full length mirror), two windows, a set of free-standing bars, and the lingering smell of stale sweat. Sleek, serene, and somewhat sterile, Studio A appears devoid of any distinguishing attributes – with only a letter to differentiate it from its neighbouring stalls. Created for the sole purpose of offering affordable dance space by the hour, the intentional un-remarkability of the room is written into the ethos of Studio Bizz: a business whose aim is to provide as neutral a space as possible to the potential patron. In sum, Studio A represents the prototype dance studio – a “blank slate” which is unbiased in theory, yet deeply differential in practice.

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A variety of factors – not simply ample space and unassuming décor – dictate who may comfortably inhabit the space of a dance studio and how. Gender, race, ability, and class create intersectional barriers so overwhelming only the most specific of bodies are entirely welcome within the studio walls. In no genre are these rigid cultural and physical criteria more pronounced than in classical ballet, a style whose rules, expectations, and traditions are imprinted upon its dancers from their first pirouette to their final bow. In essence, the ballet space presents a phenomenological mold; its inhabitants are forced to either embody its unattainable bar or find a way to work, and dance, around it.

Using the practice of photo-weaving to blur the lines between myself (the dancer) and the studio space, my project aims to present the relationship between the dancer and their studio as one of symbiosis: an embodied pas de deux rather than strict spatial practice.

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