Dance Script with Electric Ballerina Analysis

Alice Fulton

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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In this poem Fulton does not heavily rely on some of the traditional poetic devices available to a poet, such as rhyme and meter, but other devices she uses with great skill. Fulton’s choice of line breaks makes an interesting study, for example. On the page, “Dance Script with Electric Ballerina” looks somewhat ragged because the lines are of varying lengths and are not cordoned off into even-length stanzas. Here form reflects theme, because the ballerina is arguing in favor of ragged edges and “disequilibrium.” In addition, Fulton uses her line breaks to create a rhythm that can pull the rug out from under the reader’s feet. After strongly end-stopped lines, she might break a hyphenated word in half; this sudden enjambment leads to a halting music. Often Fulton, like the poet Marianne Moore before her, uses line breaks to underscore wit or puns. When Fulton cautions that the audience might want a refund if they expected “sleeping/ beauty,” her line break reveals what audiences are really after when they choose such sugary, harmless concoctions—a type of reassuring stupor in which no one is changed because no one is challenged.

Another way that the poem seeks to disrupt equilibrium is by presenting sudden and shifting metaphors and rapidly juxtaposed images. The dancer asks, “You’ve seen kids on Independence Day, waving/ sparklers to sketch their initials on the night?” She continues, “Just so, I’d like to leave a residue/ of...

(The entire section is 470 words.)