I just came from a performance of Giselle, the classic ballet in which the heroine, a peasant girl, falls in love with a prince and then dies when she discovers that he is betrothed to a noblewoman. I love this ballet and watched it with rapt attention, but I was struck, in the context of our #MeToo moment, of its problematic appeal and that of other ballets that I love like Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake.

Not for the first time, but more strongly, I was brought up short by the contradictions inherent in what I was seeing. One cannot separate a classical ballet of this kind from its reliance on extreme, stereotypical gender representation. The tutu is a frilly exaggeration of a woman’s hips and the longer skirt is its more romanticized extension, not to mention the diaphanous nightgowns that figure in sleep-walking scenes and bedroom encounters. The male dancer is the support, the prop and pander, to this gauzy female caricature. Often the ballerina dies — in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet there is a duet, if it can be called that, with Juliet’s lifeless body. Ballet also demands rigorous physical conformity from the female dancer. She must be of a certain height and weight, must have a certain leg length, and must possess good turn-out and feet. (My teacher informed me that I had none of these at age 12.) The male dancer, by contrast, is mostly defined by his bulging codpiece and delineated buttocks. So long as male dancers can jump and support their partners, they can be more variable in their physique. More… “The Paradox of Pointe”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.



Has America really lost its passion for antifungal clown clogs so quickly?

In February 2006, Crocs, Inc. raised $208 million in its IPO; it was the most successful stock market debut for a footwear company in the history of feet.  In 2007, Crocs sold 30 million pairs of shoes worldwide. In October of that year, its stock price hit $75 per share, giving the company a market cap of $6 billion. In 2008, revenues declined $126 million from the previous year, with a 44 percent drop in the fourth quarter alone. A couple of weeks ago, Crocs’ auditors expressed “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”  This week, the company is scrambling to find a way to pay off a $22.4 million debt on its revolving credit line. Its… More…


This year, Converse turns 100, and to celebrate its heritage, it’s running an ad campaign that features a single token athlete, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, amidst a dream team of Hall of Fame screw-ups. James Dean, Hunter S. Thompson, and Sid Vicious: Just try to imagine any one of these maverick malcontents in high school gym class, doing layup drills! And yet because they chose to wear Converse All-Stars while stomping all over the wet concrete of history, the brand survives — divorced from its utilitarian roots, manically fashionable, a tightly laced blend of canvas and contradiction, but at least still alive. Happy birthday, Converse! You don’t look a day over vitally absurd!

When it was introduced in 1917, the original Converse All-Star was the world’s most functional shoe. Its rubber soles gripped hardwood floors better than its… More…

The other day I accompanied my daughter to the mall to buy a pair of sneakers. This may sound like an ordinary errand. Not for me. As devoted as I am to shoes (the subject for another column), I haven’t worn a pair of sneakers since the twelfth grade. The reason is simple: I don’t have “sneaker legs” — those long, skinny appendages that can carry off sneakers (i.e., not make their possessor look like a flat-footed troll). I wear espadrilles to the gym (OK, Curves), and even my bedroom slippers have 2-inch wedges.

In short, the trip to buy sneakers was not for myself but for my teenage daughter. I tagged along for bonding purposes and vicarious pleasure. My daughter is one of those carefree, athletic girls who has sneaker legs. One of the joys of parenthood is to see one’s progeny carry off things you couldn’t.

So there… More…