Dance Dance Dancer Vs. Princess Tutu: A Ballet Comparison

Dance Dance Dance has wrapped up for the Spring 2022 Anime Season with a stellar portrayal of ballet and the commitment it takes to perform this oft-underappreciated art, combining dance and music into one performance. However, Dance Dance Dance is not the first anime to use ballet as a means of communicating with its audience.

Twenty years ago, the show Princess Tutu premiered, and it has since then reached something of a cult status for its innovative take on the magical girl genre, the use of ballet and classical music, and the subversive story it tells of the titular Princess Tutu and the characters that surround her. With both shows using ballet to communicate themes that teach audiences about the world of ballet, how well do the two anime actually achieve their goals — and which one is ultimately the better ballet anime?

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Dance Dance Dance is a definitive sports anime that focuses on the grueling work put into learning ballet. Princess Tutu, in contrast, is a magical girl anime about a duck granted the power to turn into a girl using a magical pendant. She can further transform into Princess Tutu and use the power of ballet to connect with people emotionally, and to collect ‘heart shards’ for the boy she loves whose emotions have been scattered in pieces around the town. While her objective begins with collecting all the heart shards, she soon learns that there are darker forces at work. Princess Tutu covers a lot more ballet across the ages than Dance Dance Danceincluding famous pieces such as The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Giselle by Adolphe Adam and Jean Coralli.

However different they may sound, though, the two anime have much in common. Both Dance Dance Dance and Princess Tutu focus heavily on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, both in the score and its themes. While Swan Lake is the only ballet Dance Dance Dance draws heavily from, Princess Tutu also has characters who fulfill the roles of Prince Siegfried, the White and Black Swans and the sorcerer Rothbart — who could be considered to be played by the evil Raven or by the author Drosselmeyer, the latter of whom controls the story the characters are trapped in.

For Dance Dance Dance, the part of Rothbart in the story is played by Mori Luou’s grandmother, while he and Murao Jumpei play the parts of the Black and White Swans competing for the affection of the ‘prince’ — Godai Miyako. The initial love triangle between the two swans and the prince, as well as the ever-looming presence of ‘Rothbart,’ ties Princess Tutu and Dance Dance Dance very tightly together, at least until the characters in Princess Tutu become self-aware that they are being controlled in a story.

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Aside from Swan Lake, both shows emphasize the emotional pull of ballet and how it can be used to communicate. Princess Tutu collects heart shards through dance, and it’s through dance that the characters of Dance Dance Dance express their deepest emotions. Both also explore the theme of toxic masculinity, albeit in different ways. Dance Dance Dance mostly uses Jumpei fighting against societal expectations as well as Luou enduring bullying to show how concepts of manliness can hurt young boys and prevent them from exploring their interests.

Princess Tutu embodies toxic masculinity in the character of Fakir, who is a knight in Prince Siegfried’s service. The men in Princess Tutu are not stigmatized for dancing, but Fakir takes on a role of self-sacrifice and violence, hiding his wounds and tears because of what he thinks he needs to be as a proper knight. It’s only when he begins to embrace a different role that he and Princess Tutu can become a true team to fight against the author controlling their fates.

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Naturally, being a sports anime, Dance Dance Dance focuses more on the technical aspect of ballet, while Princess Tutu can allow the magical girl side of things to take over, and there’s also no concern over the global politics of ballet as there is in Dance Dance Dance, where the reputation of Japanese ballet versus the world and especially Russia is at stake. Both shows stress how difficult ballet is on the body, but Princess Tutu handles this by making its protagonist a magical girl who is built for ballet, even if her everyday girl disguise is clumsy.

On the contrary, Dance Dance Dance goes into much more depth over the type of body a dancer wants, as well as stretches and basic motions, making it the better of the two shows to learn about ballet since it teaches more about the actual sport. However, both anime have a very strong focus on the emotional aspect of ballet. Princess Tutu uses more ballet performances from more composers to draw on varied emotions, so the decision on which show does it better depends on whether the viewer is looking for a more technical explanation of ballet or a more emotional exploration of ballet written over the centuries.

Twenty years in animation difference does factor in as well; although Princess Tutu has some stunning sequences, it can’t hold up to the consistent quality of Dance Dance Dance, Sports anime enthusiasts might not appreciate Princess Tutu while enjoying Dance Dance Dance, while those who enjoy magical girl shows and fantasy anime may feel the opposite. However, both shows present ballet in an accessible way, and both have their definite merits as well, leaving it up to the viewer to decide which is ultimately the better ballet anime.

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