The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Dance Script with Electric Ballerina,” at eighty-four lines, is one of Alice Fulton’s longer poems; it is an important one because it provides insight into Fulton’s artistic objectives. Written in four stanzas of varying length, the free-verse poem presents the persona of a ballerina dancing and discussing her theory of dance. At times the ballerina seems to be addressing the ballet’s audience, but at other times she seems to be speaking to a sympathetic co-conspirator, perhaps a fellow ballerina.

The poem begins with the ballerina “limbering up” before going on stage while explaining that she will not be performing the familiar, conventional ballet the audience might be anticipating; she warns, “If you expected sleeping/ beauty sprouting from a rococo/ doughnut of tulle, a figurine/ fit to top a music box, you might want/ your money back.” As opposed to these visions of stylized female beauty, Fulton’s ballerina wants to be “electric,” with a “getup/ functional as light:/ feet bright and precise as eggbeaters,/ fingers quick as switch-/ blades and a miner’s lamp for my tiara.” In this way, the “electric ballerina” suggests the goals behind her rather unorthodox “dance script”—not grace, beauty, and lightness but power, daring, and illumination.

Fulton’s ballerina is aware that her unusual aesthetic choices might not be well received. She notes that although ballet audiences like to discuss “brio” (vigor) and “ballon” (the lightness of a jump that seems to make the ballerina float in the air longer...

(The entire section is 644 words.)