Peering Behind the Painted Curtain

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s windows into art history

The power of Degas’ studies of ballet dancers lies in the fact that they are off-duty, as it were. Seeing the figures, slumped over, moody and stone-faced, the very premise of ballet, and indeed, all art is exposed. The figures we watch moving across the stage, perfectly symmetrical, perfectly in time with one another in their perfectly bleached white outfits are a temporary sight. As the audience, we surely know this. We could not possibly expect that the dancers would continue to hold…