The Byron Journal

Energy Like Life: Byron and Ballet

The Byron Journal (2014), 42, (2), 145–156.

Abstract

The article demonstrates that we might profitably regard Byron's famously energetic Don Juan as ballet adapted to the page. Conversations about Byron and balletic adaptation typically move in the opposite direction: unwilling to acknowledge the effects of Europe's dance culture on Romantic-era literature, critics traditionally assert that any influence flowed from page to stage. In fact, Don Juan is steeped in references - implicit and explicit, thematic and formal - to balletic movement. Notwithstanding its affiliation with the ancien régime, ballet never lost its status as a centrepiece of European culture; as such, it afforded Byron, whose often reactionary taste in poetic form sat uneasily with his radical politics, a paradigm of artistic adaptation. Even more significant, however, ballet afforded Byron a paradigm of energetic expression, an exemplary marriage of narrative complexity to technical virtuosity.

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Tontiplaphol, Betsy