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Kristin Brown 11/2/12 Dance 359 Dance and Identity Dance and Gender Dance and gender is a popular

topic in the dance world today. There is a lot more research out there and ideas of how our social construction of gender is affecting dance and the dance world. The way that we view gender, how an individual perceives gender, gender roles, all plays a significant role in what we see on stage. Many in our society view dance as something a woman should do. Men have had a harder time gaining acceptance by society that dance can be for men too. Why is it seen this way, what is it about our society that says that men should not dance? Also, why do men dance, what draws them to it when so much of society says they shouldnt? These are all questions that are relevant to dance in our American culture today. As we explore the different genres of dance it is interesting how some have allowed more room for men then others. Ballet is one of the genres in dance that men have had the hardest time gaining acceptance. According to Jennifer Fisher, Boys and men who do ballet must be either exceptionally brave or foolhardy, or both, one might be forgiven for imagining, because of the art forms strong associations with a super-feminized world of women and the consequent amount of abuse men often take for not choosing a more conventional occupation (Fisher 45). Men in dance and especially in ballet have a stigma that if they choose to pursue a career in dance, the assumption is often that they must be gay or feminine. So the ballet world must try to overcome this and find ways to get boys involved in dance. With such a strong and powerful pull from society that ballet is not something a normal, masculine male would do, overcoming this can be somewhat

difficult. In an article by Karyn D. Collins she discusses ways to get boys involved in dance. Many of them include, having boys only classes, convincing the boys that they get to dance with pretty girls all day, that it is a coed athletic activity, offer discounted or free classes for men, give them macho roles (Collins 38). Is there a way that we can change societies view of men in ballet? There is a strategy that can be used to overcome the stereotype and exemplifies how men can dance ballet and still remain masculine; it is called the making it macho strategy (Fisher 46). Fisher says, This is when it is insisted that ballet is as tough as football, a real mans game, that it provides proximity to lots of barely clad women (wink, wink), and is, in short, a lot like the Marines, only with briefer uniforms and pointed toes (Fisher 46). Does this work? Are there men who are really giving up their sports to do ballet? While the making it macho strategy may not entirely work, it can help to overcome a more feminine culture in the ballet world. With so many women in the industry, it is no wonder that men have a hard time fitting in. The difficulty is figuring out how to show that ballet can be for men without over-masculinizing the men and at the same time, not objectifying the women. Thanks to masculine, macho men who have been highlighted over the course of time in ballet, it is becoming more acceptable for men to do ballet. We have had Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev who have been known as real ladies men. And with all of the publicity from TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, dance has become seen as something that takes a lot of athletic ability, making it more acceptable for men to

do. While the classic stereotypes still are very prevalent in our society, there are changes happening and it will be interesting to see if more men get involved in dance, there are already more today than there were years ago. With the creation and increase of modern dance in our society, men have greatly benefited. Men are getting more involved in dance and research is showing that it is partially because of modern dance. There is a, Wider public acceptance of men entering the dance field, the fostering of versatility among dancers and the accessibility to better training across America have produced discernible results (Carman 1). Modern dance has opened up a whole new world for men. Men who would have previously done ballet, are now opting for modern, and because ballet requires such specific bodies, more men who do not have those bodies are able to dance. ''Anecdotally, there appear to be more men in the dance field than there were 20 to 30 years ago,'' said John Munger, a spokesman for Dance/ USA, a national research organization (Carman 1). So why are men wanting to do modern more than ballet? What is it about modern that draws them to it? With the increase of dance in colleges and hip-hop becoming popular more men are getting involved in modern dance (Carman 1). Earl Mosley, a modern dancer states, ''Modern dance is such a buffet of different techniques and styles that a male has more of a chance to look like an athlete doing it (Dunning 2). But the men cant just be macho in modern; they must be able to convey emotions, to push themselves as artists. Judith Jamison, director of Alvin Ailey says it wonderfully, The men need to be strong and macho yet sensitive,'' Ms. Jamison said. ''On stage they need to have a sense of themselves. They need to dance with authority and at the same time express the joy they feel when performing'' (Carman 2). Choreographers want men who

are not just partners that lift girls, they want strong and compelling male dancers. In the dance field there are many powerful and compelling male dancers who are performers and/or choreographers. Modern dance has also been able to get rid of traditional gender roles. They are not as prevalent or clear in modern dance as they are in some other genres. Earl Mosley a male modern dancer states, Which brings me back to acceptance from a society built on gender identity and prejudices.'' Mr. Mosley believes, he said, that ballet dancers may be more acceptable to non-dancing men. ''They can show their girlfriends, dates, wives how open-minded they are by going to the ballet and watching the assumed gay boys dance around in the pretty white tights. But with modern dance, there can be a sense of confusion, merely because the audience might not know what in h*** they are watching! And this confusion could arouse a little fear, and with that come the questions and the phobias. Is he gay? Is he a man? Is she a man?'' (Dunning 2). Because the gender roles are not as clear it can be beneficial to men in modern dance. Pilobolus founder, Jonathan Wolken believes that modern dance opened the floodgates, and that this broad sense of gender roles can be beneficial for everyone (Dunning 2). Dance no longer becomes something just for women, its not seen as sissy or gay, but it is appreciated, as something that takes true athletic ability, both required of men and women. The gap between what the men and women are required to do is not as wide anymore. It would not be that uncommon to see women lifting women, and men lifting men in modern dance. Some dance companies have taken the ideas of gender roles to an

extreme. Some have switched male and female roles, putting men in pointe shoes, like in Mark Morriss, The Hard Nut. Other companies stick to more traditional gender roles, while others allow us to not focus on them. "Pilobolus made it safe to forget about traditional gender roles simply by leaving them behind (Dunning 3). Pilobolus is a unique company where men and women do virtually the same things, they all lift each other, and more about what they do is making shapes, allowing for gender to not be the focus. There are a lot of possibilities in modern dance. A genre of dance, very different from modern that has been able to preserve traditional gender roles is the tango. The tango is a dance that is based on frustrated love, sexual desire, and becomes a competing ground for men. It is a way to prove a mans power and masculinity. The tango is unique in that even when gender roles in society or other dance forms have been questioned or altered, the gender roles in the tango have remained very traditional. Saegio Suppa writes, "Even when some of the values (strict gender roles) are rapidly disappearing, they are still alive and prevalent in the tango world" (Kaya 3). The man is powerful, and leads the woman, while the female is very sexy and subjective to the man. Kaya states, [The] Tango is a passionate dance that plays on the traditional emotional connections between men and women (man as assertive and aggressive, woman as passive and sensual). The music and the dance are infused with a flurry of emotions from sensual romance, playful flirtation and aggressive passion in which the man is always the dominate caretaker and leader for the woman (Kaya 3). So if the tango is seen as a dance where the men are masculine and the women are feminine, can men be seen as more masculine by dancing it? Can dancing the tango

increase their masculinity? There has not been specific research about this subject, but it is a worthy thought. The tango was created and dominated by men through most of its early years and has evolved into a dance about power and sexuality (Viladrich 272). Power and sexuality fall under acceptable attributes of masculinity (Synnott 1) (Kaya 4). In an interview with professional tango dancers, they did not want to refer to themselves as dancers, they referred to themselves specifically as tango performers. Is this because male dancers are associated with being less masculine, and tango performers are associated with being very masculine? The tango allows men to dance and remain true to their masculinity and manliness. The tango is a very unique dance that has allows traditional gender roles to maintain very clear. Maybe there is a connection with the popularity of the tango and the fact that gender roles are not ambiguous like in some other dance forms. It is interesting how the different genres in dance have been affected in their own way by gender. For each of the different forms, men are facing stereotypes and societies gender expectations are different in each. In ballet, men face challenges with not being masculine enough. The ballet world is trying to overcome these stereotypes through a making it macho strategy. In modern dance, men have been able to form their own identities, and avoiding more traditional stereotypes. Modern is much more open to letting go of traditional gender roles, allowing for men to find a place in the dance world. In the tango, traditional gender roles have remained constant and men are able to maintain their hegemonic masculinity. It will be interesting to note how these ideas will be viewed in the future and what changes will come to men in the dance world.

Works Cited Carman, Joseph. "In Modern Dance, Male Isn't the Weaker Sex Now." Dance. Oct, 14 2001:1-2. Print. Collins, Karyn D. "Separate But Equal?" Dance Teacher. 2009: 36-40. Print. Dunning, Jennifer. "Has Dance Evolved Into a Man's World." June 25, 2004: 1-4. Print. Fisher, Jennifer. "Make It Maverick: Rethinking The Make It Macho Strategy For Men In Ballet." Dance Chronicle. 2007: 45-66. Print. Kaya, Crystal. "Men Who Dance: The Impact of Masculine Ideologies." Journal of Popular Culture. 2012: 1-4. Print.