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Ballet Chalkware: 1950s Kitsch
Artifact of the Month, October 2013

Kitschy plasters is just one way that the world has depicted ballet. Learn more about DCD's ballet chalkware collection.

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Male and female chalkware set, manufacturer unknown.
Male and female chalkware set, manufacturer unknown.
  • Male and female chalkware set, manufacturer unknown.
  • This duplicate of the previous female figure demonstrates that, while mass produced, each item could be unique due to the handpainting.
  • Chalkware ballerina made by FavorWare in Winnipeg. Note that the knee of the extended leg faces front indicating a lack of turnout, and it is unlikely that a ballerina would jump with her hands cupping her tutu.
  • This harlequin ballerina shows more detail than most of the chalkware figures with the cross-hatched background, textured squares on the costume and striations to delineate hair.
  • Devonware manufacturing sticker from the back of a chalkware figure.
  • FavorWare manufacturing sticker from the back of a chalkware figure.
  • The manufacturer's stamp for C Favor Industries (makers of FavorWare) in Winnipeg.
  • A detail of this chalkware ballerina demonstrates the over-crossed retiré position common to many of the figures.
  • This brightly red-lipped ballerina shows a turned-in supporting leg and an arm position that would raise the ire of any ballet master or mistress as it should be extended in a gently curving line reaching above the head, not on it. The back of this figure has been stamped with the phrase “Genuine Rockalite, Made in Canada”.
  • DCD's chalkware collection includes several matching sets of male and female dancers. These figures have been stamped with “© 1965 Miller Studio Inc.”, which likely refers to the Miller Studio in New Philadelphia, Ohio, founded in 1934 by Harry and Clela Miller.
  • This figure's clenched fists are an unusal ballet position.
  • An anatomically odd figure with claw-like hands and a hyper-flexed wrist atypical of ballet technique.
  • This publicity shot of National Ballet of Canada charter members David Adams and Lois Smith illustrates a proper retiré position, the extended and gently curved arm desired in some ballet positions, and the delicately posed hand often used in ballet.
  • This highly elaboratre piece of chalkware demonstrates the ornate framing that was sometimes created.
  • This figure illustrates the garish decorations that appear in some pieces. Her contracted abdominals and curved upper back are also highly unusual movements in ballet, especially in the 1950s.
  • Male figure mounted on metal grid.
  • A female FavorWare harlequin mounted on a metal crescent. She is unusual  because of the black paint used for her skin.
  • This Devonware male harlequin is also mounted on metal and can actually slide horizontally to a different position on the mount.
  • Spray-painting chalkware was another method used to decorate the figures. This trio of ballerinas was made by Miller Studio in 1964.
  • Detail of a Miller Studio ballerina to illustrate the painting method.

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