Thus the social position of women of the Opera…

Thus the social position of women of the Opera did not necessarily make them freer or more secure, but it did seem to give them a certain (sometimes reckless) courage.  These women had less to lose and substantially more to gain by stepping out of line or acquiring notoriety, sexual or otherwise.  The artistic consequences were not always obvious, and we do not know exactly how eroticism, art and status cohered in the lives of dancers who typically left only the thinnest trails of their own thoughts and motives.  But thanks to them, the ways in which dancers slipped between art and a decadent demimonde became a dominant theme in the history of ballet, and the reputation of a ballerina often rested on her private conduct as well as her artistic merits.  And it is no accident that many of the most daring performers of ballet in the 18th and 19th centuries were women.  Sallé and Camargo set the mold: in calculated ways they used the contemporary taste for eroticism, popular theatre, and sentiment to turn the French noble style in a distinctly feminine direction, expanding the perimeters of the art and opening the way for future developments.