The Natural History of a Ballet Girl

By Albert Smith

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Discover what life was like for a ‘ballet girl’ in London’s music halls.

Albert Smith’s The Natural History of a Ballet Girl, first published in 1847, takes the form of a gently satirical “social zoology” that examines the ballet girl’s working life. Follow her fortunes from child fairy to coryphee, learn about her backstage environs and daily routine, and hear how she spends her meagre earnings and free time.

Originally one of three ‘Natural Histories’ of society written by Smith, this short essay and its companion volumes served to highlight the uncertain definitions of social status, not just for ballet girls but within early Victorian society more broadly. Charming, quaint and revealing, The Natural History of a Ballet Girl is one of ballet’s most important cultural documents from this period.

Cheerfully illustrated in the 19th-century style, this short account is available as a delightful little gift book from Dance Books, or as a paperback reprint. While young readers may find the text a little difficult to follow, The Natural History of a Ballet Girl is perfect for the curious adult reader and lovers of dance.

Dance Books, 1996. Hardback (miniature book: 10cm x 14cm), 104 pages. Recommended.
Print-on-demand reprints are also readily available from Amazon and the Book Depository.