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Can Ballet Be Feminist?

Are ballerinas strong or fragile, gritty or ethereal? A look at the soaring, strong dance of a Misty Copeland or another prima ballerina brings all of those tensions into soaring, toe-shoed focus. And when dance historian Jennifer Fisher faced her own feelings about a tutu, she came to realize that ballerinas are a study in complex contradictions.

When Fisher gave a tutu to her three-year-old goddaughter, she had to confront her mother’s fear that the garment would seduce her into the dark side of dance. The dangers of ballet—from physical injury to exploitation, eating disorders and more—are all too well known, but after her conversation with her friend, Fisher realized that it was worth investigating how society interprets the ballerina.

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