SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Palace of the Legion of Honor (18th Century Room), Lincoln Park

Eleanor Antin, Ballerina (3pm, 7th November 1975)



Antin’s second major persona was her idealized female self: the Ballerina – a nameless iconic figure, the mere image of a dancer. In a sequence of photographs the Ballerina assumes the idealized positions of the classical ballet and executes pirouettes and other graceful balletic movements. However, an accompanying videotape of the photo session belies the pretense of Antin as an accomplished ballerina and shows her stumbling, falling, and requiring props to help her maintain her split-second poses.

The Ballerina is iconic and stands not only for the dancer but by easy extrapolation […] for all creative types and aspirants to an ideal. Significantly, Antin’s iconic Ballerina is exactly that: an aspirant. She is not the virtuoso danseuse she might appear to be in the photographs, but one seeking to fulfill the ideal. (Fox 1999: 72-3)

I wondered who would be my most wonderful, grand female self? As I said, a lot of this came out of my involvement with feminist discourse. So, that was the Ballerina. Her character started out as a generic, nameless ballerina – my artist self – and a few years later she became Eleanor Antinova, the black Ballerina of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. (Antin 1999: 212)

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