Ms. Portman’s experience gave her a taste not only of the physical sacrifices, but also the mental ones. “It was very religious in my mind,” she said. “The ritual of, like, breaking in your point shoes and getting them soft, all of that, it’s almost like tefillin wrapping in Judaism, this thing you do every day, this ritual.”Portman's comment evokes for me the ideas of Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness. In this book, Alva Noë argues that consciousness and self are more deeply intertwined with bodily existence, physical action, and the surrounding environment than we typically admit. Identity doesn't reside in our skulls.
There are two connections here to ballet as religion. The first connection is dance. Noe says that "dance [is], for me, the perfect metaphor for consciousness" (see this interview). The second connection is religion--not that Noë speaks specifically about religion (as far as I remember). The connection is in Noë's ideas and the claims of religion. I won't try to speak for all religions since I am only immersed in one, but Christianity at least has been telling humans that their identity doesn't reside solely in themselves, much less solely in the way they think or worse solely in their brains, for thousands of years. Rather, it resides in our relationships, to each other and to our Creator.