When Black Swan came out I was completely blown away and secretly having brain orgasms because of how awesomely it portrayed the darker side of ballet. Not just the actual darker side of eating disorders, bad blisters and broken toe nails but in general--how it so deliciously portrayed the somewhat dark story of Swan Lake.
For many, ballet is a very frilly pink and girly thing. And to those many people I shake my head in annoyance. Ballets are often much more dark than people realize. Most likely due to the fact that a great deal were based on fairy tales, where the original versions were of course extremely dark. Cautionary tales that teach us lessons by scaring the crap out of us is how the original fairy tales usually worked. So it makes sense that ballets would also follow suite. Plus, ballets are performances on par with something like an Opera. A spectacle of drama only instead of voice the instrument is dancing.
So let us talk about a few ballets that are extremely dark. And that would make FANTASTIC horror movies, shall we?
The Red Shoes
Although the ballet based on the fairy tale is rare to find performed these days, it still falls into the category of insanely creepy/awesome in my book. The story is about a peasant girl who gets adopted into a rich family. After lying to obtain fancy red shoes and becoming all vain and lame, the girl gets cursed by a mysterious soldier who condemns her to dance for the rest of her life (and beyond it as well).
The story is riddled with violent imagery, like the girl being forced to dance through thorns that rip at her skin and body. The girl even tries to cut off her feet hoping to destroy the curse. Plus, I just love the common theme of "dancing to death"...isn't it just the greatest!? Also, let's not forget the ill-fated Asian horror film The Red Shoes. Where the red shoes were really just pink shoes. But who's keeping track?
Giselle is the tale of a young woman who goes crazy and dies from a broken heart after learning that her love is actually a Duke and not a peasant like she thought. After Giselle's death, the second act of the ballet takes place by her grave where Hilarion the gamekeeper who was also in love with Giselle, grieves. It is here, that Hilarion encounters the Wilis, vengeful female spirits who rise from their graves at night and seek revenge against men by dancing them to death.
Giselle is then summoned out of her grave and invited to partake in the festivities. But when the Duke arrives he begs for forgiveness, which Giselle accepts. Hilarion however, is not so lucky as he chased by the Wilis and then thrown to his death in a nearby lake. Ultimately, Giselle's kind heart allows her to separate from the Wilis and sleep peacefully in her grave. But still, poor Hilarion huh?
Naturally this ballet has awesome written all over it. Vengeful spirits that take revenge on men by making them dance to their death? YES. Not to mention that Giselle rising from the grave invites gentle whispers of ZOMBIE. Well, ghost zombie I guess.
The Rite of Spring
Many recognize Igor Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring as being the music for the dinosaur segment in Fantasia but it was actually first a ballet that filled the audience with horror because of how unconventional it was. Taking place in Pagan Russia, the Rite of Spring is something of a fertility ritual where a young virginal girl is sacrificed by being forced to dance to her death.
Clearly a central punishment in many ballets is this idea of dancing to your death. Which really is kind of the ultimate definition of my favorite kind of horror--something that is terrifyingly beautiful. It also speaks largely to that whole idea of being far too consumed by something you truly love. What if one day someone condemns me to eat sandwiches or play Zelda FOREVER? Well, I guess there could be worse things.