By Ruud Vermeij, May 2011
Today, thanks to the women’s movement, society has generally embraced a progressive attitude toward gender equality. Yet, competitive ballroomdancing creating images of traditional, and unequal, gender stereotypes. How do we explain this phenomenon? Has it rejected the traditional gender stereotypes it was founded upon? Or is society more willing to accept traditional gender stereotypes in an era of post-feminism?
This has been also my question when Caroline Joan Picart published her book, “From Ballroom to Dancesport: Aesthetics, Athletics, And Body Culture”. When dancers enter the dance floor, mostly they create images of traditional men and women. The bodies have been sexualized and/or undergo the context of hyper-femininity and hyper-masculinity. Is this to sensationalized the body as an image of desire or as an empowerment of the body? I think it would be better if we have a female correspondent to answer this.
Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. (Faith Whittlesey)
this is something I have often thought about… I fancy myself a supporter of women’s liberation and have benefited in my lifetime from such progressive attitudes… yet I find myself reacting strangely to seeing a woman wearing pants on a competition floor and not a traditional skirt, for example. As an educated, liberated woman (or so I like to think) I find ballroom’s traditional gender roles comforting somehow… it is like an oasis away from the rest of the world where women are pressured to ‘keep up’ and ‘compare’ to men. Instead, in ballroom, we are asked (as ladies) to listen, follow, understand and create our own unique FEMININE identity. Our ‘femaleness’ (for lack of a better word) is embraced in the ballroom world, we are not asked to shed it and be more man-like, like we often are as women in the outside modern world.
Only the ignoble seek equality, the noble aim for harmony.
In Social Philosophy equality and freedom are logic counterparts. If there is ever the choice, I chose freedom.
I think the point is not only in representation on the floor: in Italy (a Mediterranean country, well note) most of competitors build up their family on a very traditional model. So the “archetipitical” roles in chacha and rumba tend to remain the same at home. I guess an explaination, one of the many: in Italy, i think, dancers (competitors) don’t feed on art, and their minds (their culture) stay into tradition. Have you ever had the impression – speaking with some italian dancers – to be in front of a football player instead of an inspired artist?
Why would anyone think a ballroom dance partnership is unequal? I have found ballroom dancing to be the single most empowering activity I have ever done.
If we’re in dance position, and he initiates movement, but I don’t move, we don’t move. Who’s in control? She who accepts or rejects the impulse toward movement, or he who suggests that she move?
From the outside, it may look like ballroom dancing is the peak of traditional, unequal gender stereotypes, but that’s just another in the long list of ballroom illusions.
A good start would be to update the technique books, and our language used to talk about men and women, male and female…. Even gentleman and lady would be a step to recognizing equality ….
And…. Seeking harmony not equality? I like this notion, just as long as both partners are equal in creating the harmony!
Nature and biology did not make us equal. Women’s brains are better at multi-tasking and communication then males. Males are better at spacial and hand-eye coordination. Amongst many other differences that are just simply determined by biology and evolution. I always respect and celebrate when I see a lady learning and/or dancing in a leader’s role. Most women I know just don’t want to do it and do not find it enjoyable. I find learning (even better to experience) the follower’s role accelerates mastery of performing proper lead in any figures. ie. knowing where to give early rise for heel turn and so on.