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Reforming dance pedagogy :
b a feminist perspective on the art of performance and dance education
h [electronic resource] /
by Jennifer Clement.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: Dancers, in their formal training, are deprived of many basic human experiences and are often not exposed to critical thinking. Expectations about what it means to dance and/or be a dancer shape the classroom environment, performances and both the body and mind of individuals engaged in this particular art form. A professional dancer is expected to plan her day around the dance classroom and this mentality is shared by aspiring professionals as well as dance educators. This structure, in tandem with the expectations for a female dancer to maintain a certain body type- almost always a thin flexible body, toned long limbs, and light smooth skin for ballet performers- is limiting and in fact raises questions about a dancer's agency in the educational and performing processes. This project has originated out of my own experiences in the dance community and my frustration with those classroom structures. Throughout the paper I will concentrate on college level dance training with emphasis on women as dancers and the construction of ballet classrooms, which, like patriarchy, has created the paradigm against which most dance classes and performances are judged.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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Advisor: Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D.
x Women's Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Reforming Dance Pedagogy: A Feminist Pers pective on the Art of Performance and Dance Education by Jennifer Clement A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Womens Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Ma rilyn Myerson, Ph.D. Sara, Crawley, Ph.D. Michael Foley, M.F.A. Date of Approval: November 16, 2007 Keywords: artistry, ballet, modern, gender in equality, authoritaria nism, heterocentrism Copyright 2007, Jennifer Clement
Dedication To my parents, who always encouraged me to follow my heart To my dad, who now has an honorar y masters in Womens Studies
Acknowledgements This thesis could not have been comple ted without the assistance of my committee membersMarilyn, Sara and Michaelwho of fered me both suggestions to make my paper more cohesive and gave me moral support when I became frustrated. I would like to acknowledge all my dan ce teachers who challe nged me to exceed expectations and Ms. Katrina fo r showing me that dance is a life enriching experience. My friends and family who allowed me to bounce ideas off of them and reminded me to have fun once in awhile, without them, this project would never have made it past the planning stages.
i Table of Contents Abstract ii Introduction 1 Dance: An Overview 5 Thinking About an Education in Dance 5 Dance in Higher Education 7 The Dancing Body 15 Cultural Narratives 26 Heteronormative Narratives and Gender Surveillance 26 Narratives in Practice 32 New Directions 36 Modern Dance A Possible Exception? 36 Liberatory Pedagogy 43 Implications 47 Conclusion 50 References Cited 57
ii Reforming Dance Pedagogy: A Feminist Pers pective on the Art of Performance and Dance Education Jennifer Clement ABSTRACT Dancers, in their formal training, are deprived of many basic human experiences and are often not exposed to critical thinking. Expectations about what it means to dance and/or be a dancer shape the classroom e nvironment, performances and both the body and mind of individuals engage d in this particular art fo rm. A professional dancer is expected to plan her day around the dance cl assroom and this mentality is shared by aspiring professionals as well as dance educat ors. This structure, in tandem with the expectations for a female dancer to mainta in a certain body typealmost always a thin flexible body, toned long limbs, and light sm ooth skin for ballet performersis limiting and in fact raises questions about a dancers agency in the educa tional and performing processes. This project has originated out of my own experiences in the dance community and my frustration with those classroo m structures. Throughout the paper I will concentrate on college level dance training with emphasis on women as dancers and the construction of ballet classrooms, which, like patriarchy, has created the paradigm against which most dance classes a nd performances are judged.
1 Chapter One Introduction This dance studio is a familiar and reassuring place with gray floors and teacolored wood barres, but today I hope it dis appears. With any luck, the entire building will get sucked into the sandy Florida dirt, never to be seen again. Ive skipped at least three classes this semester and walked out during the last fifteen minutes of class probably half a dozen times. I know today will not be any easier. I cant help but think that it does not matter how well or how poorly I will do during the lesson today, the students are just going through the motions and n one of the teachers are really interested in helping us become better performers. It seems that they have already determined which students will succeed and which will perish, and I am enraged that I have been cast aside. I know that to even be here taking this class I am privileged but I begin to wonder how many other creative performers w ill not get an opportunity like the one I had because they do not have the money for necessa ry materials or classes or because there are no art programs in their area. How is it that some people are allowed and encouraged to make art, while others are not? I sit under the barre wrapping the ribbons from my pointe shoes around my ankles and get completely lost in thought. Why does this feel so wrong? Why cant we all perform in the fall concert? If we all have certain things that we do better than others, why aren t we valued for the unique movements that our bodies and personalities create? Why is this so hard? I want to cry. My pointe shoes feel tight like my chest and I know that I will not be coming back next semester.
2 Dance, for me, was always my favori te activity growing up. The studio was a place where I could use up all my energy and perform femininity1 in a way I typically did not throughout the remainder of the week as I played foot ball and roughhoused with the other neighborhood children. I enjoyed ballet particularly because it was challenging and evocative. At the college level somehow dance became less about performing and more about learning technique. I l oved technique but wanted to be more expressive. After a year and a half in two different college da nce programs I took a Womens Studies class and one year later I officially changed my major. Womens Studies gave me a background in womens history a nd feminist theory while illustrating the significance of participating in social activism. I felt as if all of the feminist classes I took as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student pertained in some way to dance. I wanted to bring my two areas of interest together, so for this paper I decided to write a feminist critique of dance pedagogy. As I was writing several themes emerged in support of my claim that feminist pedagogy can transform dance. I realized that ballet had been situated as the paradigm for dan ce in higher education and began to explore how this feature of college level dance progr ams impacts the students. I knew that I was affected by this standard as a student. In fact, I was initially surprised by how much emphasis was given to ballet technique because I always thought of colleges as very open-minded places where rules and traditions were challenged. Ballet seems at odds with those notions, since the discipline doe s not explicitly attempt to question the established canon. I believed that my experience as a dance major, which consisted 1 I use the phrase perform femininity to highlight the idea that gender is a performance and to juxtapose the feminine presentation I enacted during dance class with the usual masculine behaviors I exhibited in other arenas particularly when I was younger.
3 largely of learning traditiona l ballet technique and dance hi story as opposed to a focus on modern dance was an uncommon series of ev ents-maybe even just good luck. At that time I strongly disliked the modern technique, which appeared to be ever-present and felt that ballet rightfully deserved to be the mode l for other forms of dance since, in my mind, it demanded more of dancers physically and me ntally. I do not support those ideas at this point, indeed, I argue that adopt ing ideals put forth in modern dance in combination with a background in feminist theory and pedagogy would actually be advantageous to choreographers, dancers, teachers and researcher s alike. For the purposes of this paper, I had to explore the ways in which the balle t paradigm pervades dance education, which forced me to adopt a more impartial view so I could consider the differences and similarities between ballet and modern techniques. As part of my thesis, I chose to observe a modern dance class that met three times a week. My six-week observation helped ground my research in real world experiences and assisted me in the exploration of my themes. While observing dance classes and researching dance history, it became obvious that the structure of most class sessions and the authoritarian interactions between teacher s and students stems from the widely held practice of learning through a banking model of education (Freire, hooks Teaching to Transgress). I would argue that traditional ballet education relies more heavily on this approach than modern dance, making its position of power w ithin the academic community more stable, however, this distinction is blurred by being situated in higher education where all forms of dance taught are subject to current tr ends in instruction. This realization encouraged me to see para llels in the ways both Womens Studies and Dance are treated within academia and search for ways that a more liberatory pedagogy
4 could challenge dancers to think about thei r craft differently. While Womens Studies may be more readily identifiable as an acad emic field than Dance, both have been accused of not being sufficiently rigorous, leading scholars to question whether or not these areas of interest belong in the academ y at all. Both subjects examine the body and emotions in depth, topics that are regarded as feminine and typical ly ignored in other academic studies, which may explain why many people reject Womens Studies and Dance. To show the need for the integration of feminist pedagogy in dance classes, I demonstrate how the social construction of gendered bodies is established through dance classes and via the dance narra tives conveyed on stage. The investigation of this matter shows how traditional pedagogy is limiting and highlights the need for change, which is my final theme. I suggest that the incorporat ion of classes that utilize more critical thinking skills while changing the classroom dyn amics so that all students have a voice in a non-competitive environment will open up th e possibility of creating transgressive performances. Students will have a better unders tanding of themselves as performers but also a more complete awareness of the kinds of interactions th at shape our everyday experiences. Whether these are pleasant revela tions, such as finding out someone else has had a similar encounter, or an unpleasant surpri se like realizing that people are not given the same opportunities to succeed in life, danc ers, choreographers and teachers will have a larger range of expressions stories, body types, and ge nders to work with, which ultimately makes dance more relevant to the community it serves.
5 Chapter Two Dance: An Overview Thinking about an Education in Dance Dancers, in their formal training, are deprived of many basic human experiences and are often not exposed to critical thinking. Expectations about what it means to dance and/or be a dancer shape the classroom e nvironment, performances and both the body and mind of individuals engage d in this particular art form. A professional dancer is expected to plan her day around the dance cl assroom. Aspiring professionals and dance educators share this rigid work ethic. This stru cture, in tandem with the expectations for a female dancer to maintain a certain body t ypealmost always a thin flexible body, toned long limbs, and smooth light-colored skin for ballet performersis limiting and in fact raises questions about a female dancers agency2 in the educational and performing processes. If dancers must always meet crit eria that are largely out of an individuals control, such as leg and arm length or even sk in color, how can danc ers ever have agency in this field? For three years, as an undergraduate, I st ruggled to assert those statements as I grappled with why dance classes were so unsatisfactory. It took me another two and a half years and the beginnings of a graduate degree before many of the problems coalesced in my mind. This pr oject has originated out of my own experiences in the 2 Throughout this paper I intend to focus on the experiences of female dancers, however, when appropriate I will also address the ways male dancers are impacted by the dance discipline.
6 dance community and my frustration with the classroom structure. That background has led me to concentrate on college level dance training with emphasis on women as dancers. Throughout the paper I will focus on the constructio n of the ballet classroom, which, like other sexist institutions, has crea ted the paradigm against which most dance classes and performances are judged. I would have imagined that universities were the places that actively challenged the banking model of education, advocating inst ead for methods that encouraged students to develop critical thinking. For that reas on it seemed a logical extension that the curriculum in any dance department would be based on that same goal of rigorous intellectual development in ad dition to learning the foundatio ns of dance technique and performance. I do not want to imply that work ing towards a degree in the field of dance is a non-demanding task but I do question basic as sumptions about what it means to be a dancer and the theoretical underpinnings of the pedagogical styles that are traditionally employed in the dance classroom. Ultimately I theorize the dance classroom, examining the ways that traditional dance pedagogy emphasizes gendered binari es and authoritarianism in the studio, stripping dancers of their agency while cr eating a docile dancing body. I believe as bell hooks states, that as teachers, our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students (hooks 13). I use this statement as a guideline because I think it is important fo r dancers and dance teachers to begin to theorize what it is we are hoping to accomp lish in a university setting. As feminist researchers, dance educators, and dance students, we need to ask several questions: What is the relevance of dance? What is the proj ect of dance education and performance? Who
7 contributes to research on dance and dancers? How does this art form serve our communities? Is dance used to promote social change? Could it be? Furthermore, we need to consider how agency within structured classes can limit or assist students in the development of artistry3 and whether (or not) our classes encourage exploration, personal and techni cal development. Dance educ ators could greatly benefit from exploring feminist epistemologies and implementing feminist approaches to education in the dance classroom. We must also theorize dance as a discipline, looking at the gendered expectations in performance as well as in the dance classroom. Dance in Higher Education Dance in higher education in the United States, was in its infancy in the 1920s largely because of apprehension about the mora lity of dance (Ross 3). There was a belief that dancing helped cultivate loose morals among women and a strong fear that dancing would promote promiscuity or otherwise unfem inine traits associated with the late nineteenth and early twen tieth century new woman (Evans 147, 160-162, Copeland 131). This common misconception is not surpri sing considering that as ballet developed in France some centuries before, the perfor mances were attended by bourgeois men who came to ogle the female dancers and frequently used the backstage area for a quick sexual rendezvous (Banes 39-41). Some stories told on stage were even devised in a way that would peak the audiences sexual desires. Obsession with the O rient and other nonWestern cultures lead to the cr eation of many ballets including La Peri, Le Dieu et la Bayadere, Paquita, Revolt of the Harem, and Le Corsaire where portions of the 3 When I refer to artistry I am employing a standard de finition, which states that artistry is a superior skill that can be learned by study, practice and observatio n (Artistry). For me artistry also refers to the qualities an individual can contribute to any form of art that are unique to that person. I would add that artistry is a attribute that I believe anyone can cultivate given enough time and encouragement
8 performances were expressly designed to gratify mens appetite s (Jowitt 60). For feminists this is clearly an instance of what bell hooks calls eati ng the other where the other or the unknown is seen as exotic and de sirable. As she states in her article, the commodification of otherness allows individuals from the dominant race, ethnicity or other group with significant influence, to a ffirm their power over subordinates in a way that may appear benevolent, when in fact the relationship is e ssentially exploitative (hooks 23). In short, whether the European wo men were dancing as sylphs, farm workers, or sexual temptresses from other parts of the world, their profession was likened to prostitution. Tales of backstage sexual en counters in France, combined with the increasing sexuality of popular dances like the bunny hug and the slow rag in the United States, undoubtedly astonished the middle class in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when dance was beginning to be es tablished in several American universities (Evans 161). For years this presumptive association between dance and morally permissive behaviors among wo men was left unquestioned and many individuals at that time still considered dance scandalous. It seemed unlikely that dance would enjoy widespread successes in the puritanical United States. Dance and dance education finally made in roads in the United States during the 1920s largely because of the early feminist movements for suffrage and the slowly shifting attitudes about wome n. As Janice Ross notes, dance in higher education would have another big boom period in the late 1960 s and early 1970snot surprisingly, on the wave of this centurys second big push fo r womens rights (212). The cultural and political movements during these different time periods allowed women to explore options not previously available to them a nd began to remove some of the taboos about
9 the capabilities of female-bodied people. In the early twentieth cen tury, as women fought for the right to vote, they ch allenged other restrictions such as clothing styles that had heretofore been commonly accepted. For dance this was one of the most important changes because, like Isadora Duncan, ma ny women stopped wearing corsets, a staple garment in almost all ballets and everyday fash ion (Albright 18). This distinction in style of clothing worn for dancing is just one of many departur es between modern dance and ballet, but it allowed Duncan and her dancers to explore a much larger range of motions that were unavailable to ba llet dancers (Banes 74). The correlation between the spread of da nce in higher education and the womens rights movements taking place at these times is fascinating but not coincidence, there is in our contemporary culture a notion that to dance is to be freeof course dancing in itself would not have liberate d these women from the social and economic hardships: dance rather stands for the possibility of escape (Wolff 149). Janet Wolff is specifically addressing a specific scene from Dancing at Lughnasa, which is a play by Brian Friel where dance is used as a metaphor, but her points are more generally thought provoking (Wolff 148). How can dance be as a liberatory act? Why is it that dance, predominantly the modern style, flourished during the wome ns movements in the United States when the dance discipline, in which ballet has b een established as the paradigm, generally reinforces gendered binaries and in many ways glorifies unequal relationships between women and men or even between older and younger females? The first college program to offer a degree in dance was founded in 1926 by Margaret HDoubler at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, even though, the Harvard school included dance in its summer physical education program in 1887 (UW Dance
10 Program, Oliver 1).4 While the program at Harvar d created by Dudley Sargeant was designed for the physical education prepar ation for female teachers and was taught exclusively by men, H Doubler initiated a program which wa s concerned primarily with students engaging with movement on an em otional level (Oliver 1, Ross 209). This emphasis left room for dancers to explore a ra nge of movements that have not necessarily been codified in gendered ways like movement in ballet or modern dance have been and increased their focus on developing artistr y. The stress placed on developing ones emotional connection to the bodily movement is in itself a revolutionary concept. While other dancers and choreographers including Loie Fuller, Carlotta Grisi and Jean-Georges Noverre incorporated emotional elements into their movement styles, Magaret HDoubler is one of the first to create a program based around learning to connect meaningfully with the dance (Jowitt 10, 61, 90-91, Ross 209). The progr ams website continues to boast that the dance program focuses on the thinking da ncer, a dancer with a deep understanding of the physical, spiritual, and artistic aspects of the body in motion (UW Dance Program). What, exactly, is meant by the th inking dancer? Considering that Margaret HDoublers program is based in an ins titution of higher education, where is the statement confirming that establishments dedi cation to challenging th eir dancers to think critically? What kind of thi nking dancer are they producing if physical, spiritual, and artistic aspects are their main areas of con centration? Dancers are given some leeway to be individuals and have original thoughts in choreography and improvisation classes, but is that enough to help cultivate well-rounded students? 4 Some accounts indicate the program was in progress as early as 1879 (Ross 57).
11 In part, audiences may see dance as a liberatory pursuit because it centers largely on training the body to move and respond in sp ecific ways while maintaining the illusion that the performance is a spontaneous reaction or portrayal of a series of emotions or aspects of a story. This in fact does requi re a person to develop problem-solving skills. Passionate and successful dancers have to draw on a variety of resources to accomplish their goals. Ideally, colleges and studios provide training that will be the most beneficial to those students, but which qualities will enha nce a dancers ability to perform: the ability to read and respond to theory, exposure to other forms of art that could provide inspiration, time off from the studio so that dancers may explore other interests or interact more with individuals in ot her professions? Live perfor mances certainly support the notion that dancers are free spirits that are both truly talented and expressive, but the business of dance education and even dance classes themselves are very detached and utilitarian. Today the National Association of Schools of Dance divides programs into three categories (Van Dyke 28). Division I is occupied by sc hools and studios who want to be acknowledged by the dance profession as reputable sources for training (Van Dyke 28). Division I schools while highly regarded for providing ad equate training, do not turn out large numbers of dancers ready to join a professional company. Division II includes most college programs who offer degrees in da nce that require at least 65% of course hours to be completed in studio technique and Division III schools focus primarily on producing professional dancers (Van Dyke 28). Division II school s typically train students to be teachers, provide a thorough understanding of the choreographic process and although Division III schools have a much higher percentage of students who enter the professional world, Division II schools will generally yi eld several students who will
12 also join a professional compa ny. While these divisions might seem arbitrary, they affect how and what a dancer learns about her craft and demonstrates a deep divergence of values centering on the question of whether on e is trying to train the dancer or educate the person, to teach skills or build inner re sources (Kraus and Chapman cited in Van Dyke 28). In the late 1960s, Suzanne Langer wrote a bout dance as an art form and it became apparent that there was concern about the lack of research in dance and how this sets dance apart from the rest of the generally esteemed academic community (Oliver 2). Unlike history, psychology or philosophy, the da nce field is not hi ghly populated with individuals who focus primarily on research or construction of gra nd dance theories. In fact, another issue surrou nding professional dancers who came to teach in higher education without suitable academic credentia ls was raised because many professional dancers were hired to teach technique wit hout a college background or a degree. Teachers were hired despite the fact that most colleges preferred some kind of academic certification, but these educat ors did have real world experience that many college graduates lacked (Oliver 3, Ross 201). In ac ademia, I imagine it is greatly frowned upon to have a department made up of professionals with limited educational backgrounds. Since dance departments generally are concer ned that their students learn the academic side of dance (including but not limited to history, kinesiol ogy, and labanotation) 5 as well as a variety of dance techniques, this situation continues to be problematic and seems to point again to the ongoing debates ab out whether a school should be trying to train professionals, in which case it may be more constructive to have instructors with a 5 Labanotation is a method of writing, created by Rudolf Laban, which allows dancers and choreographers to document and analyze movement.
13 professional background or to prepare academic dancers, in which case, having teachers with more academic experiences would be mo st beneficial. I would argue that both pursuits could and should be integrated. W ho would be able to theorize about dance better than someone who has spent significant amounts of time performing professionally? How could a more thorough understanding of ones goals regarding dance, not enhance someones performance? Additionally, how could an improved understanding of what it means to be a gendered person inspir e ones artistry? As Judith Butler argues, gender is a series of performative acts which brings with it ostracism, punishment and violence when it is staged in a way that does not uphold heterosexual norms (Butler 309). Exploring and acknowledging this aspect of gender seems particularly necessary and useful for dancers as it may lead them to revelations about their own art form. For example, the recognition that gender norms infuse dance as extensively as they do reveals the fact that many parts of the human experience have been excluded in order to maintain the gender bi nary. The understanding that dance has upheld this dualism may open dancers up to new opportun ities or, at least, will make them aware that they are choosing to highlight specifi c characteristics over others rather than performing in a particular manner because of their biological attributes. Dance, like Womens Studies, has been accused of lacking academic rigor and even within departments some teachers and st udents believe that all creative efforts should be directed toward performance and c horeography and others have the belief that there is a need or desire to legitimize th e field through publication (Oliver 3). As a feminist educated in both traditional dan ce techniques and Womens Studies, I would agree with Edrie Ferdun who writes that, although the dance profession may understand
14 that it continues to have a role as a change agent and sy mbol for womens opportunities, achievements, and dreams of cultural transf ormation, there is little momentum from which to build at this point in time, and I hope to contribute to the continuing discussion of what constitutes an appropriate education in dance at the college level (Ferdun 8, Oliver 3). I would like to add that although righ t now I see only a little momentum for change, we can look to the women and men who have actively challenged stereotypes through their work in dance for insp iration as we continue to decide if it is necessary for dance to be legitimized via academia. For me some of those insightful people would include; Njinska, Matthew Bourne, Matts Ek, Jiri Kylian, Isadora Duncan, Katherine Dunham, Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane all of which have been studied in some manner by well-known scholars. Another way to build this momentum for change is to actively pursue research and cr eativity in higher educati on without as Betsey Gibbons states, dissecting the person into three parts of body (which is trained in technique classes), mind (which is taught in theory classes) and spirit (which is generally not dealt with at all in the educative process) since all are integral in every step of developing intelligent and emotive dance performances (Gibbons 12). Feminist approaches to research, which both avoid the mind/body split and which encourage interactions between the researcher and the participants t hus working to reduce the disparity in power among all parties involved, could serve as a model for dance educators or dancers who wish to analyze the complex dynamics i nvolved in performance and the learning environment created in the dan ce classroom (Reinharz 197-213).
15 Chapter Three The Dancing Body Dance, specifically ballet, has been situat ed as a feminine art form regardless of whether it is performed at a college or pr ofessional level or whether the dancers are masculine or feminine (Classical Balle t 289). The commonly assumed association between a person who dances and femininity is in my opinion, directly related to the way dance is integrally linked to the female body. Nancy Hartsock explains that while men occupy a world with a number of fundament ally hostile others whom one comes to know by means of opposition women are grounded in the concrete materiality of the world (Hartsock 229). This materialist observati on highlights how the separation of self and other is believed to be relatively uni mportant for women while bodily experiences in the reproduction of the sexual division of labor are central to womens experiences (Hartsock 229). Women thus have been put in charge of the daily work associated with the reproduction of the body. Drawing from that work we can see why dance, which is closely associated with the body, has come to be characterized as a feminine profession not worthy of serious academic consideration. In dance the body cannot be extracted from the work; even in theorizing about dance we must analyze how the body functi ons in performance. In professional companies and schools that train women and me n to dance, individuals are expected to maintain specific body types. Frequently, th e goal for females in a traditional ballet performance has been to portray an ethereal be ing. Sylph-like qualities that are revered in
16 many womens performances and that have co me to be expected by observers include: long lean muscled performers, light floating and graceful movements, soft pale skin, large round eyes, and extreme flexibility of the dancers bodies (Jowitt 29-47). These characteristics correspond with current notions about feminine beauty and are achieved with the help of intensive training, pointe sh oes, which elongate the visual line of the leg, proper lighting, makeup, and costumes. These characteristics excl ude a number of individuals who have arbitrarily been determ ined to be too short, too fat, too darkskinned or too inflexible and ar e not necessarily restricted to the world of dance. Looking at feminist theory we find much scholarsh ip supporting the soci al construction of gendered behavior and outward appearance. Ba rtky details how to be beautiful in North American culture, female bodied people must pursue many of these same goals including: having a slender body, moving deli cately while wearing high-heeled shoes which, like pointe shoes, also exaggerates leg length, speaking infrequently and participating in other grooming rituals such as the application of ma keup or exercising in a socially prescribed manner (Bartky 66-73). These characteristics examined in isolation may or may not seem inherent ly negative but they become damaging when the absence of long legs, white skin or thinness prevents a wo man from interacting with others socially or from pursuing a career in the performing arts because she fears or experiences discrimination.6 Size of the female body is the most importa nt aspect in determining the level of appropriate femininity of a body for a dancer as well as more generally for females in a 6 Many scholars have addressed the ways in which socially prescribed rituals produce gendered bodies and the ways in which these social norms are indeed harmful particularly fo r females. For example, wearing high heels limits a womans ability to walk fast or run if necessary while something like dieting to maintain a specific idealized body type can cause fatigue or even, ultimately, organ failure.
17 social setting. A small frame indicates submissive, non-threatening femininity and delicate gracefulness to many people. Diminu tive size is even accentuated in ballet through the slight angling of the body, which presents the dancers body in a slim long line to the audience. It is de manded that ballet students confor m to this standard, whereas there is a slightly wider range of acc eptable sizes for modern dancers. Many characteristics about our bodies includ ing body size and shape, we believe are predetermined at birth; however, bodies are malleable. Generally we assume that women will be smaller than men in both height and weight. We also imagine that a woman cannot build as much muscular strength as a man, but it is the f ear of losing ones femininity rather than actual limits creat ed by a womans body structure that prevent women from pursuing activities like wei ght lifting (Dworkin; Crawley, Foley and Shehan). Dance reflects the cultural sta ndards about womens bodies as described by Dworkin and Bartky and exaggerates many of those features. Many people have not been aware that training for a caree r in dance has the capacity to delay and modify an individuals physical devel opment, preserving the linear, adolescent body form so well suited to aesthetic and perfor mance values in dance (Vincent 135). Most professional dancers, in fact, have the long un-rounded bodi es associated with preadolescents because of their intensive exercise r outines. It should not come as a surprise that consistent physical training has the ability to alter the shape of a pers ons body; this is especially true for youthful athletes whose bodies are still growing. Young dancers, like gymnasts, though, experience a delay in the onset of puberty and many girls will either not menstruate until they stop dancing or have a delayed menarche (Vincent 134-141). Dance literally helps crea te, preserve and exaggerate prepubescent body qualities through
18 repetitive exercises and quite surprisingly through an extensive selection process, both of which eliminate individuals with undesirable bodies and mentalities. Dancers are not born, they are made. Move ments are performed in a manner that reaffirms patriarchal notions about womens and mens positions in the world and dance classes actually construct the desired bodies that are consid ered appropriate based on an individuals anatomy. Women a dhere to strict regimens, which minimize overall size, builds flexibility and leg strength while men build stamina and speed. The [se] disciplinary practicesdescrib ed are part of the process by which the ideal body of femininityand hence the body-subjectis c onstructed; in doing this, they produce a practiced and subjected body, i.e., a body on which an inferior status has been inscribed (Bartky 71). Even the clothing worn for ball et is highly regulated and differentiated based on sex categorization (West and Zimmerman, Frye). Males must have cropped hair, wear black ti ghts and ballet slippers with a light colored shirt while females will wear their hair in a bun, pink tight s and ballet slippers (or pointe shoes) with a black leotard.7 Dance educators prescribe many of these routines that shape the body, but dancers share and implement their own ritual s outside of the classroom to help attain the perfect dance body. The reduction of body weight in ballet is a common goal among female students and professionals but serv es little to no function except to assist males in lifting their partners. This is part icularly concerning when it becomes apparent that as males are encouraged to strengthen their leg and arm muscles as much as possible and are given a considerably larger ra nge of accepted body weights, females are 7 The color of the dancers apparel varies dependin g on what the instructor specifies, but in most professional and college level programs the dancers ar e required to dress in a uniform color (for example, all women will wear a red leotard daily or on Mond ay, Wednesday and Fridays all female dancers will wear black, on Tuesdays and Thursdays all fe male dancers will wear green leotards, etc).
19 encouraged to develop muscles that are not quite as obvious to the audience. Arguably, increased upper and lower body strength coul d help female dancers perform more challenging movements with less effort: however generally ballet choreographers prefer female dancers with waif-like bodies that can be lifted, twisted, and thrown about without difficulty by their male partne rs. Dance professors are inclin ed to favor repetitive muscle building exercises, which tend to promote st rength but limit overall muscle size thus helping dancers maintain a sleek and dimi nutive body. While there is no generic dancing body, since different techniques create bodies ca pable of performing better in some ways and not others, dance teachers still urge pe rformers to conform to this gendered normsmall, delicate bodied women and str ong, expansive bodied men (Wolff 160). Dance, however, being unmistakably about bodies in motion, has the ability to challenge current patriarchal notions about womens and men s capabilities while delving into family dynamics, relationships and sexua lities in ways other disciplines and art forms could never explore because it actually builds bodies. There are theoretical benefits to the fact that dance is clos ely linked to the body. As femini sts, we have inherited the notion that the body is both the ground of cultural (and gendered) oppression and the potential site of its overthrow evidenced by th e fluidity of body size and shape so, it is no coincidence that the metaphoric locus of so cial revolt is the body, in a culture in which the corporeal has been progressively represse d (Wolff 153). This history of devaluing that which is associated with the body provides feminist scholars and dancers a unique perspective from which to critiq ue traditional ways of thinking about bodies and gender. Why then, if the body has so much potent ial to destabilize ou r current modes of thinking, do we value prepubescent figures inst ead of the rounded curves that many adult
20 women have?8 There is nothing inherent about a slender figure that makes it more successful at ballet than a curvier one, so we might conclude that thinness is a stylistic choice, however there is an intricate pro cess occurring in dance education both at the college and professional levels leading to the success of those indivi duals who have what are determined to be the more appropriate dancing bodies. Vincent claims that females who mature later are better suited to a variet y of movements such as running, jumping or throwing since it is assumed that the post-pubescent female body will have too much body fat and for that reason late maturing girls are more successful in sports while boys who mature ahead of schedule have an adva ntage (159). Although these statements are intriguing, I am not sure that girls who mature ea rlier are any less cap able of performing the movements required of ballet dancers. Mu scle strength and flex ibility in my opinion are much more important characteristics for a da ncer to have than narrow hips or small breasts. Having large breasts or hips will not prevent a dancer from moving in the prescribed fashion, however, a limited range of motion or strength in the legs could significantly hinder a student. Ba llet technique is particular ly concerned with developing strength and flexibility in specific ways on a dancers body to allow for a maximum range of motion in a performance, but these two technical requirements can be achieved without regard to breast and hip size. While dancers may not be able to control every detail of their bodies, they do learn how to act appropriately feminine or masculine. Most of this education about how to perfor m female and male is learned throughout society but college dance educators also prepare their students to master feminine or 8 It is important to note the contradiction here between what is typically valued in women on television, in movies and in magazineslarge breas ts and/or curvy hips and buttocksand what is valued in balletwomen with small breasts and narrow hips.
21 masculine traits, depending on the sex categoriz ation of the student, and teach them to utilize these qualities as they pertain to performance. Subsequently educators, other students, and audiences hold the dancers accountable for performing correctly as a woman or as a man (West and Zimmerman 46). Unfortunately, rather than seizing the body as a place to promote social revolt, many of these dance training programs assume that all individuals can fit into one of two categories (male/female, heterosexual/homose xual, thin/fat, able-bodied/disabled, etc) thus limiting the creative potential produced by not belonging (and not performing) as if all people could belong to either categor y. In this way, dance is not unlike any other institution in the United States, most of which primarily recognize only two sexes and two genders. Many aspects of our society re inforce the idea that sex and gender are clearly identifiable characteri stics since they are believed to be linked with our physical make-up. We learn at a young age that our ge nder and sex are innate characteristics we develop at birth, however, ...ge nder is a performance that produces the illusion of an inner sex or essence or psychic gender co re (Butler 312). The accepted naturalness of these qualities reinforc es heterocentric standards making individuals who do not clearly fit in one of the opposing categories other (Ingrah am). For me this binary is problematic, both for the reasons Butler and Fa usto-Sterling have explained at length, and also because it imposes severe restrictions on dance which is theoretically supposed to be breaking with the academic tradition and, to a large extent, is thought to be ahead of its time. Dancers, who do actively challenge curr ent ideas about sex and gender, in their physical presence or through their movement styles, have not been represented in traditional ballets and have only appeared fleetingly in modern dance performances.
22 Instead of celebrating th e body and the variety of cap abilities that are made manifest in class, dance is structured in a way that reinforces the mind/body split where the body must always be controlled by the mind. In a traditional cla ss setting the teacher assumes an authoritarian stan ce towards the students perpetua ting a cycle where, in the teachers absence, the mind continues to re ign over the body. The experience of a moving body becomes sublimated in an environment where success is measured by how well students can regurgitate the information or m ovement combinations presented in class. How do we expect students to learn to be evo cative on stage if the curriculum is based on the conventional banking model of educati on (hooks)? While both Womens Studies and dance deal with bodies and with feelings, dance actually requir es that the body be properly regulated before a dancer can instill emotion into her moveme nt. Even then, she is supposed to portray sentiments, not actually examine he r own. In feminist research and in many Womens Studies clas ses, individuals are expected to incorporate their experiences and feelings without hesitation as the topics ar e discussed. I have not seen teachers insist on this prerequisite in dance classes, instead, it is assumed that once the technique is mastered, students may begin to incorporate emotion into the movement, but not before that goal is achieved. This kind of training hardly supports the development of artistic, intellectual or emotional distinctiveness among students. Conversely, feminist classes are often ta ught in a way that compels students to engage emotionally with the material and to be active agents in the le arning process. This style of teaching is based on the theory th at the classroom is a place for sharing and creating knowledge which should reflect student s needs, while encouraging students to question systems of inequali ty (Bell et al, Mayberry). Teachers with a feminist
23 background could draw on femini st theories about oppression, social construction of gender, and subjectivities to persuade dance st udents to think critically about what they are hoping to accomplish. Such a teacher can invite students to consider why it is that in Western society we think in such dichotom ous terms about the body or even explore why a specific character in a dance is chor eographed differently based on the sex categorization or ethnic identity of the performer (West and Zimmerman 44-45). This level of complexity and thoughtfulness on th e part of the teacher provides the class environment with the sustenance necessary for drawing out the creativ ity of the students. In general, we tend to think of creativity as a rare talent. Creativeness is considered exotic or child-like but, nonetheless something that is held by a special few. We remarkably attribute these qualities to those who our society might deem troubled in one way or another, or who live their lives in a hedonistic fashion; however, inspiration and originality can result from intense disc ussion, meditation, boredom or even fleeting thoughts or sensations; outlandish behaviors and direct me morization are not requirements for the development of artistry. As students and teachers we need to use the opportunity provided by the college classr oom to delve into these subjects. Returning to the body, we s ee that the restrictions placed on female bodies by traditional dance class settings, also intensifie s a dancers need to camouflage the effort that goes into any combination of movements. Although this is standard for all dancers, female dancers probably have the most di fficult and intricate steps to perform. A womans choreographed steps frequently invo lve quick foot movements with a complex series of arm motions and thus she must work harder at concealing her pain or struggle to maintain her ethereal feminine persona. Th is characteristic echoes the superwoman
24 role that women are encouraged to take on in this society. We expect women to do it all, be financially stable, work, bear children, which she will provide the predominant care for, cook, clean, all while smiling and looking li ke a fashion model. Dancers, like women in other fields, of course ca nnot meet all the requirements and must hide the exhaustion the results from trying to meet those demands. Womens work whether engaged in a wage earning pursuit or daily family a nd household upkeep remains concealed (Shaw 733). To be fair, male-bodied performers must also mask their efforts but the movement composition generally given to men allows for a different range of motions, which collectively creates a grandiose presence on st age. Male dancers, even in traditional ballets, tend to perform larger movements th at emphasize their specialized jumping skills and utilization of the entire dancing space. Wh ile female dancers are expected to remain silent and must compete with each other for starring roles, limits for males seem made to be broken (Stinson 28). For example, in my experience, if a dance educator asks you, a female dancer, to perform a double pir ouette-that is a turn on one leg with two rotations-you had better perf orm exactly two rotations, any less and you may be ridiculed for not meeting minimal expectations and any more and you may be told you were asked to perform only two so that your level of control over your body could be evaluated. With a male dancer, however, if he opts to execute a triple, he will be commended for taking initiative and striving to exceed expectations. Dance education reinforces social norm s for male gendered bodies as well. Nonetheless, my observation indicates that there is more latitude given to male dancers in the range of accepted body sizes, muscular build and flexibility. Within this assortment of body types, male ballet dancers are generally ta ll and lean with a greater variation in
25 weight among the men than there is among fe male dancers. Male ballet dancers, like female dancers are required to be strong and fl exible, but they must also be able to lift their female partners, requiring consider able upper body strength. Onstage, men are expected to play masculine characters whose purpose involves courting, rescuing or clashing with a feminine counterpart or engaging in a journe y or battle where women are conspicuously missing from the sequence of events. His physique and movement becomes symbolic of his position within th e community represented on stage and also complements the feminine aesthetic de sired for female-bodied dancers. Both sexes work hard in performance but they are clearly en gaged in disparate tasks and are expected to perform differen tly based on expectati ons about anatomical attributes. This divergence highl ights the fact that dance disc ourse is firmly rooted in the notion of inborn or natural gender difference in wh ich males are dominant and females are othered, but it can change (Clas sical Ballet 289, 290). Clearly there is a discrepancy between what male-bodied and fe male-bodied individuals are supposed to do in most class settings, however in a dance cl ass, those differences are significantly more apparent. Using feminist ideologies as a basis for forming a dance curriculum could help address some of these issues, but we must al so consider the narratives that go along with these dichotomous classroom expectations. Wh en we acknowledge that the majority of traditional ballet stories tend to be heteronor mative portrayals of a soon to be married couple, dance performance becomes incr easingly problema tic (Banes 16).
26 Chapter Four Cultural Narratives Heteronormative Narratives and Gender Surveilla nce It is interesting that the masculine persona assumed by dancers onstage is juxtaposed with the widely he ld stereotype that most male dancers (predominantly those that practice ballet) are homosexual. In th e larger society these men are seen as effeminate because of their profession but in an isolated performance they exude masculinity by commanding the space on stag e and through their dominance over female dancers. Heterosexual relationships form the ba sis for most traditiona l ballets leading to several common characters and themes. One theme that emerges in ballet that dem onstrates the need for feminist critiques of dance narratives is the marriage plot (Banes 5). In many ballets, marriage is a common subject matter since many of the earli est ballets were performed during royal weddings (Banes 5). Working women are rarely portrayed or are dismissed as comical or tragic in the dance narrative, a consequence th at Sally Banes sees as arising from dancing on the lyric and concert stage wh ich are venues associated with the aristocracy (Banes 6). If ballet was created as a community form of dance, we would see different characters and themes emerge; perhaps the most comm on theme would revolve around religion or farming but surely there would be more th an sylph-like creature for women to play. Banes continues, stating, the tendency is to represent on stage bourgeois, rather than working-class, values toward sexuality a nd marriage in ballets (Banes 6-7). Today,
27 ballet still embraces and re presents those bourgeois va lues towards sexuality and marriage, and as researchers, teachers and dancer s, we need to ask why? Is it possible, for example, to conceive of a dance where the central character is a single-mother and to represent her life using traditional ballet technique? My intention is to question whether or not ballet as it has been traditionally conceptualized has a sustainable and optimistic future. Embracing tenets of modern dance, wh ich allows a larger range of movements to choose from and which incorporates more aspect s of a particular dan cers personality, is certainly a good way to update ballet, which has not typically been known for keeping up with current ideas and tre nds; however, how would we distinguish these new modern ballets from modern dance and is this di stinction even necessa ry? Will the ballet technique continue to change as it is adap ted to fit contemporary narratives or will the technique remain the same becoming obsolete except during performances where classical ballets are revisited? These issues become all the more important as we look at how they are manifested in other dance classes. While pa triarchal notions about bodies and behaviors are widespread, these concepts are not established or accepted in the same ways in all forms of dance. Modern dance, having a more diverse history, does not seem to fall in to the same trap as many ballets where marriage is one of the most common themes. I do not want to imply that modern dance has not or could not address an issue such as marriage, just that it is not one of the mo st prevalent themes. Themes in modern dance seem to vary based on the choreographer, a nd not entirely on which trends and subject matters were being explored comprehensively during the time periods when the dances were composed. Perhaps the most notable diffe rence between the origins of ballet and the
28 emergence of modern dance is that women, not men, dominated in the creation of modern dance techniques, undoubtedly affecting the themes that were chosen by modern choreographers (Copeland 124). Unlike ballet modern dance covers a wide range of subjects and more frequently incorporates pi eces that could be in terpreted strictly as movement compositions in which there are no discernible stories or relationship between dancers and even little to no identifiable emotions exhibited by the performers. More current ballets share some of these characte ristics but I have found that modern dance companies often perform these dances, which raises the question, what makes a dance a ballet performance? Does simply wearing pointe shoes make a dance a ballet? If a dancer wears pointe shoes and performs in a classi cal manner with her h ead upright and arms carefully placed in the prescribed positions but every once in a while dives to the floor and rolls around while paying careful attention to where the movement is initiating in her body, does that make her performance a modern dance or a ballet? The distinctions between the two major techniques and the narratives that they explore are very noticeable but not completely important if we focu s on creating an evocative presentation. Another common theme for traditional works of ballet that is noticeably absent in modern dance involves tales of morality that promote endogamy or marriage within ones social group (Banes 16). La Fille Mal Gardee is a ballet in which marriage between classes threatens to destroy the local commun ity. Although this warni ng is disguised in a light-hearted tale about a widows badly guarded daughter, the importance of maintaining ones social status is highlighted. This th eme encourages viewers and participants to accept inequity and even blam es inequality on moral deficiencies of the characters. In La Fille Mal Gardee the rebellious daughter ac hieves her goal and is
29 allowed to remain with her love who is a fa rm worker like herself. In this storyline, endogamy is celebrated. Normally this tale is accepted as a heterosexual love conquers all story without consideri ng the message it sends about class relations, which again reveals that feminist educat ors are needed to problematize this kind of story. In narratives like these, gender surveillance se rves an important f unction. Masculinity and femininity are reinforced throughout the stor y as male and female-bodied individuals perform tasks deemed appropriate for their se x. Characters that do not follow prescribed behaviors are usually humiliated, ostracized, or even killed. We do not see same-sex couples in any tr aditional ballet. Narratives portrayed in traditional ballets are heterocentric, rarely showcasing dancers of the same sex categorization together except to show opposition. In works such as Swan Lake, the lead female characters, in this case, the white sw an and the black swan are even danced by the same individual. It is understood that th ese women are shaping his moral dilemma as they pull in opposite directions both strivi ng to gain Prince Siegfrieds devotion. One contemporary version of this ballet by Matthew Bourne, howev er, recreates the story with an all-male ensemble. Within his story we find an allusion to a same-sex relationship, but again this is a modern adaptation, which incor porates both ballet and modern techniques allowing the story to morph into a non-tradit ional tale. Bournes choreography is truly amazing and unique but I have to wonder if we could capture this same compelling story strictly using ballet te chnique and an all male cast. Wh ile it would be an undeniably worthwhile endeavor to explore the possibility of a same-sex subtext in other traditional ballets, it is beyond the scope of this paper.
30 The last interesting theme that emerge s from ballet narratives, which I will address here, involves the portr ayal of the deadly femme fatale. She is not a rare occurrence as one might expect in traditional ballets but she still conforms to current expectations about femininity. She is a char acter who is subject to her own libido, with the hero as her prey (Jowitt 110). Her sole pu rpose in the performance, however, is to pose a challenge for male characters to overcome. Unlike the sylph or young women destined for marriage in other ballets, the femme fatale acts on her own behalf but she is portrayed in a negative manner. Banes effectively employs a feminist stance towards these issues showing how even a strong female character is subjec t to the patriarchal underpinnings of dance but I have to wonder how many dancers are privileged to read her arguments? Given the time constraints of a dancers day it is not likely that many performers have read this kind of work unless it was incorporated into the curriculum or the individual has a pronounced interest in reading about dance wh ich is pursued during free time throughout the day or evening. Although many of the traditional ballet narratives are told from the heros point of view and feature heroines who are destined for marriage or demonstrate passive traits, it is indeed the ballerinas who dominate the st age (Jowitt 41). When we hear about dance, whether it is discussed in a print article or visually documented we are frequently presented with the image of the corps de ballet, a mass of women moving in tandem as a group. There is no question that women outnumber men in a ballet performance and choreographers have found ways to incor porate large numbers of females using the chorus to fill the background while featuring one or two of women with a male partner. The majority of solos are also performed by a select group of female dancers, however,
31 men still hold more positions of power with in a dance company as well as in their onstage personas (Stinson 28). Her partner is always the one who leads, initiates, maps out the territory, subsumes her space into his, and handles he r waist, armpits, and thighs. She never touches him in the same way: she does not initiate the moves. Metaphorically, she makes no movement of her own; her posi tion is contingent on the manipulations of her partner (The Balanchine Woman 284). A female ballet dancers worth is established by her relationship to a male partner and thus the woman must always be concerned with how her appearance and moveme nts reflect on her partner. I argue that there is no reason that women and men have to interact in thes e scripted ways particularly within an artistic form of expression like dance. Sandra Lee Bartky writes on a similar note that, Higher-status individuals may touch their subordinates more than they themselves get touchedWhat is announced in the comportment of superiors is confidence and ease, especially ease of access to the Other (74). In modern dance it is not uncommon for women to touch men, to guide them with their hands, but in ballet this is a very rare occurrence and indeed, male s occupy dominant positions in most traditional ballets. In fact although there are more wome n than men there are relatively few female ballet choreographers. Female characters in traditional ballets, which were created primarily by male choreographers, have to negotiate the world around them through interactions with men; they are spun around, twisted and bent over backwards as the males in their lives serenade their bodies. These observations seem to strengthen the idea that a panoptical male connoisseur resides within the conscious ness of most women (Bartky 72). Every movement a female makes on stage during a ballet is a demonstration for the male
32 protagonist and ultimately for the masculine gaze of the audience; therefore she must consistently monitor herself to make sure he r display is being appropriately received as feminine. Gendered movement, though, is not c onfined to the stage. Female and male dancers must also scrutinize their performances inside and outside of the dance classroom to train their bodies in a gende r appropriate manner. The body is not a free flowing tool for expression as it generally appears on stage, rather, in the traditional dance classes the body often seems to be regarded as an enemy to be overcome or an object to be judgedmerely [intensifying] the values of the larger social world (Stinson 29). Marilyn Frye claims that obs ervable feminine and masculine characteristics are assumed to be representative of the actual physical bodies we each inhabit. These suppositions we make are tightly linked with our socially determined beliefs about how men and women should dress, behave and interact. Frye continues on to say, one appears heterosexual by informing people of ones sex very emphatically and very unambiguously (Frye 24). Dance, like such ot her institutions as religion, education, and governmental policies, helps create and maintain heteronormative bodies by regulating gestures, ways of speaking and even limiting the kinds of interactions people experience due to the extensive time that must be dedicated to lear ning and practicing the profession. Narratives in Practice In my experience, young students are expect ed to devote their lives to dance in order to portray these one-di mensional characters in a vari ety of narratives. They are frequently required to practice between one to four hours a day depending on the type of school they attend and this time increases to approximately four to six hours on average
33 for a dance major in a college setting. The long days of prac tice dancers are subjected to stems from the time when Marie Taglioni, a famous ballerina from the late 1800s, notably worked a total of about six hours a day practicing with her father for her debut performance (Jowitt 43). Modern dancers have also been held to these standards and not surprisingly one of the founding mothers of modern technique, Isadora Duncan, also helped to set the bar by standing for hours with her hand on her solar plexus before deciding this was the place from which all move ment originated (Jowitt 76). This exalted form of dedication explains why many dancers spend little time socializing with individuals outside of the st udio or opt to take academic coursework that requires minimal commitment. The goal in much of da nce training is to facilitate individual achievement with little emphasis on co mmunity and caring, values most often regarded as feminine and thus hard work and long hours spent in training are highly valued characteristics of a dancer (Gilligan qtd in Stinson 29). But are the performers being exposed to critical thinking through classi cal training at the college level with all of the required commitments to maintain a d ancers body and ident ity? Are they learning to value individual successes over their own ti es to their communities? When classroom surveillance extends beyond the classroom, how can dancers de velop an artistry that is unique to their experiences, particularly if they are give n choreography which excludes large groups of people including those who identify as homosexual, bisexual or asexual, people from lower class backgrounds, or pe ople whose bodies are differently abled? Education in current dan ce classrooms serves a reproductive function, meaning that classes are structured in a way that transmits and reproduces modes of thinking that have already been established as true (S tinson 27). Dancers learn to imitate their
34 instructors and memorize movement combin ations relying primarily on the banking model of education described by Paulo Freire and bell hooks. In this situation the teacher is the final authority and seen as the only valid source of knowledge (Stinson 27). Dancers are not encouraged to question the teach er, they learn to be silent observers and, because they are dependent on an external source for feedback about a performance, any comments or lack of comments take on ex aggerated import (Stinson 28, Smith 128). This style of teaching requires students to em ulate their professors while minimizing their own experience or observations related to the movement. Considering that ballet was created and codified by indi viduals from privileged backgr ounds, we might wonder if impersonating the teacher woul d ever allow for a diverse group to be represented in movement styles and performance. It is obvious that homosexuality is typically unexplored in ballet narratives and that wome n and men of color are absent from these works, except when they were considered exotic and were consequently imitated in dances by Europeans. The limited cultural scope and repetitive nature of the dance classroom, with its mirrors, watchful teachers, and self-critical stud ents is a key site for both the external and internal surveillance of dancing bodies where hom ogenous and docile forms are ultimately produced (Smith 131). Dance training emphasizes gendered movements which do not originate from within; dance does not necessarily articulate the authentic expressions of the body, rather these steps and positions are imposed on the body through years of training and discipline (W olff 158-159). Like most other forms of socialization, gendered traini ng in dance helps support the my th that only two sexes and genders can ever be represented in perfor mance whether or not that presentation is
35 carried out on stage or in fr ont of a group of ones peers. In dance, women become objects of male desire rather than agents in th eir own lives (The Balanchine Woman 286). Feminist dance teachers or choreographers interested in deve loping cutting edge performances should examine the unquestioned assumptions about how female and malebodied people ought to look, move and inte ract. The dance classroom could be a transformative space and considering that th e class is structured around teaching women to dance like women and men to dance like men the possibilities for unveiling the accomplishment of gender are immeasur able (West and Zimmerman 42-47).
36 Chapter Five New Directions Modern Dance: A Possible Exception? As I began to formulate more ideas for this project, I decided that I would like to observe some dance classes to refresh my me mory of how it feels to be in a class and how teachers and students interact. Sitting in on different classes, I thought, could help me identify pedagogical issues in dance that I found probl ematic. I tried to make connections between my experience as a dancer and my desire as a feminist to have a classroom environment where students are e ngaged with one another as well as the teacher and learning in a way that promot es both student achievement and critical thinking (Parry, Mayberry). I thought hard about what I w itnessed as a dancer and discovered that the dichotomy between ballet and modern, which I thought was true and uncomplicated, was indeed very complex. I ha d to deconstruct noti ons about learning and performing that I had previously believed were unequivocal. Because I was socialized as a young dancer to believe that ballet should be held in the highest regard, it was hard to acknowledge that this form of modern dance, which I so much disliked, could actually destabilize the mythical ideals upheld by ballet that also greatly troubled me. Going into the class knowing that modern dance, at times, has been viewed as completely antithetical to the ballet tradition and e quipped with a basic unde rstanding of pedagogy, I had hoped I would find distinct divergences in the ways classes were taught.
37 Observing a modern dance session, you w ill find that each cl ass is slightly different depending on who facilitates the l earning experience and the exact technique being taught. For instance, ther e are several codified versions of ballet and modern dance education including: Cecchett i, Vaganova, and the Royal Academy of Dance schools for ballet and the Limon, Horton, and Graham t echniques for modern. While these styles have similarities, they have their own speci fic movement vocabularies and theories about dance, which are apparent upon inspection. Th ere is more variation between modern styles of dance than there is between the ma in schools of ballet, wh ich is a testament to the flexibility and tolerance associated with modern dance. To be clear, while many modern dance classes at the co llege level are structured in a way that parallels ballet, studios or colleges with wellknown programs often do not prescribe to that arrangement. Instead they may encourage students to warm -up on their own, allowing teachers to begin immediately with a choreographed routin e or work on very specific aspects of performance that they want to emphasize. In classes like these, the development of artistry may be highlighted more than learning the exact technique. Modern dance educators seem to have more leeway to try new things when it comes to creating an effective pedagogical style (i.e. permitting stud ents to make up or lead an exercise, altering the order of events to better suit students needs or desires, promote dialogue and cooperation between students, etc) because th ey are not tied to a traditional canon of knowledge (Davis 76-78). Ballet classes, on the other hand, are all ta ught in a very similar and consistent manner. Whether you take class in a small town in Nebraska or a large studio in Paris, the classes will be noticeably comparable. Class begins with a warm-up at the barre, which
38 consists of very specific exercises done in the same order every class period. These movements are followed by work done in the center of the class space and combinations taken across the floor and usually the class concludes with a brief reverence, which entails a quick cool-down stretch. 9 Sometimes modern dance classes also follow this routine typically beginning class with the sa me general outline; some kind of warm-up, work that is done center floor and exercises that are perf ormed across the floor, however as discussed before many of the movements practiced are distinct from those seen in ballet. These movements appear to be differe nt because, for example, in modern dance the body is not always held in an upright pos ture whereas in the three major schools of ballet, the upper torso remains habitually straight. These modern techniques allow dancers to fall to the floor, to bend backwa rds and sideways or even perform handstands and cartwheels giving modern dancers a more substantial movement vocabulary. During a six-week period, I observed a mode rn dance class that met three days a week. The class was an introductory techniqu e course in which three of the fourteen students were dance majors. I started my observation in a modern dance class, taking notes about everything I saw the teacher do; I was particularly interested in how he had decided to approach the cla ss. I wanted to know how his pedagogical style would affect the students. Constantly, I evaluated his pe rformance as teacher to see if he was empowering students or challengi ng them to think critically about the movement process. In many ways it felt like I was still observing a rigid ballet session wh ere the barres were not utilized. The instructor st ill led the students through a seri es of very structured warm9 Reverence is a term used to desc ribe the formal goodbyes conducted at the end of a class session. During this time students may curtsey to the teacher, accompanists, the audience, (which is designated by the mirror) and even each other before concluding with a round of applause.
39 ups designed to increase the dancers flexibil ity and strength. The entire six weeks was devoted to learning the warm -up exercises from which cer tain shapes and movements were extracted for other movements performe d across the floor. All of these aspects can be found in ballet, so what then makes modern dance so different in the minds of dancers and teachers alike? Certainly the two forms have unique beliefs a bout the foundations of movement and distinct historical origins. As we have seen, modern dance also has a broader range of subject matters, moveme nts, and more unconventional partnering between individuals, but there must be other reasons that modern dance is considered more progressive. By the end of my time with the students and teacher, however, I was frustratedas far as I could tell, the most feminist aspect of the class was the excitement the instructor showed for helping the student s learn the exercises (hooks, Teaching to Transgress ). I had expected to find that modern dance cla sses would be radically different from ballet classes: more expressive, inte ractive, and generally extem porized, but that was not my experience. Disappointed, I began to examine how the studio space was employed. Not only did I find that the room was not handled diffe rently, I also began to grasp the ways in which the dance class set-up di scourages student participa tion. Students in a modern dance class typically begin facing the fr ont which is designated by a large mirror.10 The instructor commands the space by standing at the front to speak and demonstrate movements while the dancers listen and watch at tentively. In this class that I analyzed, all movement was carried out with meticulous c onsideration given to where the audience 10 Some studios have mirrors on all of the walls; in those cases the front is usually the mirrored wall without an attached barre.
40 would be located. After warm-ups, the dan cers generally traversed the space going from the sides of the stage directly across or by moving at an angle towards the audience from the back corners. Throughout my time with th em, the instructor never began an exercise from the front of the stage moving back or even from the front corners moving at a diagonal towards the back wall, which I would have regarded as an exceptional use of space not seen in ballet. It is possible that I did not observe this kind of movement due to the fact that this was an in troductory course; however, as a modern class, it did not live up to its reputation as a more freeing style of dance. Despit e the technique being taught, the physical makeup of the studio is the sa me and the treatment of class space is analogous. These issues encourage a rigidity that is uncharacter istic for feminist classrooms and quite abundant in traditional ballet settings. Although I have taken several modern da nce classes throughout my life, I only have had one experience in which I felt like th e instructor was able to completely move away from the ballet paradigm. This sh ift helped me understand that my body could move in ways I had never been shown in balle t. We were challenged in that class to analyze movement and to make the routines, even the warm-ups, expressive in our own way. The teacher broke with the traditional ba llet model as well by having us rely on the expertise of other students in th e class thus sharing her role as the authority figure. I do not recall her ever particularly addressing gende r issues in the class but she used language that at this point, seems to demonstrate a commitment to treating all students equally. Unlike many ballet classes I ha ve taken where women are referred to as girls and men are called guys or men, this teacher referr ed to us either by name or as dancers. Additionally, we had to study movement and anatomy on a daily basis and were
41 encouraged to ask analytical questions while we were developing an internal connection with the choreography. Her style of teaching was intimidating for someone like me who was used to hiding in the back of a class when I fe lt uncomfortable with the movement. My uneasiness was caused not by the style of da nce I was learning, however, but the way she taught which entailed holding us accountable for learning the materi al, contributing to discussions and participating in the constr uction of knowledge. I now understand that her approach to education was mo re feminist than the trad itional dance classes I had encountered. While at the time the class was fr ightening, I learned an incredible amount about modern dance. I was also forced to re ally think about what my goals were as a dancer and artist, and was exposed to an aren a where I had a voice and could share in the process of learning instead of just memori zing information. I had more access to my own agency in her class than I did in my balle t courses where my desires for myself as a performer were masked by the demands of the technique. Reviewing the overall experien ce with the introductory class, I was also struck by how much the dancers influenced one another and the subtle ways agency is utilized by the dance students. When I refer to agency, I mean the degree to which students are able to interact with and affect the dance disc ipline as well as the ways in which students negotiate the expectations placed on them by the discourses that constitute dance education. As an undergraduate dance stude nt, I overlooked agency in the classroom because it never occurred to me that I actually had a choice about what and how I learned or the way I behaved in class. I took for granted that the teacher was the ultimate
42 authority and should never be challenged even if it meant not understanding the assigned task. As a spectator I found that many of the st udents conducted themselves in the same manner I had years ago. Prior to the start of class, students gathered in small groups around the room, speaking to one another until th e instructor arrived. As soon as this took place, students began to spread out, finding pl aces for the beginning routines, and ceased talking unless the professor dir ected questions to the class. Throughout the class period I was able to observe instances where students greatly influenced each other. For example on numerous occasions during a combination if someone forgot or messed up the steps, frequently, at least one othe r student would get confused. This confusion results from self-doubt and the perception that other stude nts must know the combination better. In short, it seems to be more important for a dancer to remain with the group-to not stand out from the restthan it is to perform the exercise exactly as it was given. Indeed, even when the teacher was not in the room or le ft temporarily, I found that if one student began to stretch or practice turning out of their own volition, other students would start stretching or turning as well. These observations, while ente rtaining, are not trivial. To me, they indicate that dancers survey themselves and each other, further demonstrating that Foucaults conception of Benthams panop ticon has been internalized (Bartky 64). If the goal of dance education is to teach stude nts to move in unison, internal surveillance would be a desired quality, but with these lim its set in place, how does a dancer learn to be a distinct artist, particular ly if she is learning a modern technique where it is assumed that she will not be hidden in the corps?
43 Liberatory Pedagogy Pedagogy in the conventional dance cla ss is based on the banking model of education and the belief that teachers a nd texts should be the primary sources for transferring information to subsequent genera tions (hooks). Critical th inking skills are not developed through this version of education. Even in dance classes where collaborative learning is encouraged, students ultimatel y do not question their teachers or the information they are supposed to unequivocally accept. Difference gets erased or overlooked in this model as well and thus t he race, class and gender aspects of how knowledge is produced and used are not addresse d (Mayberry 5). This is problematic for a discipline that developed out of bourgeois forms of entertainment and where the majority of students continue to be white middle to upper-middle class women. In the traditional model we imagine that femininity in dancers is either entirely voluntary or [entirely] natural because we are not aware of the structures that encourage us to maintain the right body (Bartky 75). Lear ning in these classrooms does not challenge students or teachers to think about why someth ing is being studied, taught or considered inconsequential which is the case generally with gender, race and class. We need to be thinking critically about why most dance studios are populated primarily by white middle-class students and expl ore why dance is a stereoty pically female activity and what girls have learned through dance about being female (Stinson 41). A feminist pedagogy, which arises from feminist theories on inequality, gender, race, class and sexuality issues, has the potential to address all of these aspects. Dancers, choreographers and teachers w ould benefit from participating in a more liberatory pedagogical style that challenges th em physically and ment ally without stifling
44 the creative processes. Feminist pedagogy ha s emphasized the necessity of a studentcentered approach where knowledge construction is shared and teaching is recognized as a value-based activity (Bell, et al., OBrie n and Howard, Shapiro). This approach does not mean that we abdicate responsibility in the classroom; rather we assume responsible authority which OBrien and Howard describe as, recognizing or developing convictions about how and why one teaches and acting on th e strengths of these convictions (328). There is an asymmetry of power in a dance class but it does not have to degenerate into a strictly authoritarian space (O Brien and Howard 28). In th is method of teaching, dancers can be empowered as agentic and artistic in dividuals not docile bodies prepared only to receive direction. In a feminist dance classroom, self-e xploration could be a valued form of learning in which each dancer is given the oppor tunity to explore th eir own capabilities. This kind of learning where students rely on their own experiences and knowledge base has been relegated to improvisation and chor eography classes, but I am convinced that any dance course could be refocused so that the structures that make gender seem natural and inevitable could be examined as they pertain to the students. Additionally, classes that are modeled on feminist beliefs help to create an atmosphere where students and teachers are not diametrically opposed, rather teachers and students may feel encouraged to connect with others in mutually produc tive ways (Shapiro 14, OBrien and Howard 7, Stinson 31). Feminist pedagogies also highlight knowledge and ways of knowing that have traditionally been subjugated or invalidated, and they foster emancipatory aims which ultimately will allow individuals involv ed in dance to access and express concepts which may not have been represented in perfor mance ever before thus assisting artists in
45 making a sincerely revolutionary piece (Bell et al. 23) For dancers and choreographers these aspects of a feminist approach to teach ing have enormous potential for transforming the discipline. Incorporating feminist episte mologies and pedagogies in dance curriculum will permit dancers and choreographers to experience and construct works that have been excluded from the traditional dance canon. As Edrie Ferdun states, What dance seems to have forgotten as it was integrated into higher education, is the dynamism of commitment to social change and personal integrity that was so vital to its early y ears (Ferdun 11). Consid ering that ballet was founded by elite individuals and then establishe d as the paradigm for dance, her statement seems paradoxical. How was dance committed to so cial change if the narratives reflected bourgeois values and so many experiences and groups of people were left out as dance was codified? While modern dance and ballet ha ve always been compared, it is important to understand that modern dance originates out of a more progressive ideology reflecting a wider range of experiences. We need to theorize dance in academia from a feminist perspective and, as Cheyenne Marilyn Bonnells research shows, almost any course can be adapted to address feminist concerns. Dancers and teachers need to engage in research of their own, making their voices heard in the world of arts curriculum innovation and development formulating alternative epistemologies that support their methods of teaching, creating dance and performing (Bolwell 86). We have to revisit the question: are we training dancers to be professionals or are we tr aining them to be educators? Either way, incorporating critical thinking with feminist pedagogies will help dancers do both in a more meaningful and effective manner.
46 What then is the value of art? How do we determine if a dance is meaningful or effective? Unlike paintings or sculpture, da nce is a dynamic art form. Once a piece is choreographed it is never the same unless it is captured on film. Clearly a work changes as it is adapted from one group of dancers to the next or even to accommodate a new dance space, which may be much larger or sm aller than the place where it was initially choreographed, but each performance is differe nt from the last even if the works are performed by the same artists in the same setting. Dancers forget their cues or must compensate for a minor injury affecting th e way a production is viewed from night to night. Additionally an artists emotional outl ook changes in subtle ways, which can alter their performance profoundly. These minor ad justments may not change the overall tone of a performance but can in fact change the performer or viewers experience with it. In all the dance classes I participated in as an undergraduate, the aforementioned aspects of dance were touched on briefly, acknowledged but not central to what was viewed as importantthe reception of a performance by an audience or the acquisition of a job as a paid professional which was determined by your performance in front of a panel of highly regarded dance personalities. What seems to get lost in the evaluation of what is important and therefore what e ducators should relate to their students are the fine details of artistry. Francois Delsarte c onsidered that to value art for arts sake was as absurd as to value the telescope for the telescopes sake instead of for what it brought into focus (Jowitt 80). The point as educators is not to transmit only technique from one generation to the next, for in this way the art form will become stagnant and a monument to itself. More precisely, the desired goal is to equip st udents with both the technique and the tools necessary for creating art, as well as the visi on which will allow them to perceive their
47 own potential for bringing to the stage subj ects and themes relevant to their lived experiences. Dancers, like feminists, can st rive to highlight issues that have been marginalized by reframing arguments about dance and performance. Implications Janice Ross argues, dance has never been fully at home in the humanities in higher education, however until recently it lacked the histori cal and theoretical scholarship that the other art forms have long possessed (106). I agree that dance is not at home in higher education and that very little research has engaged dance as an academic discipline but I would add that partic ularly it is feminist perspectives on dance that are missing the most. Feminist scholarsh ip on dance generally focuses on one of three concepts: the patriarchal biases or archetypal characters in various works by different choreographers, eating disorders among performers or th e pervasiveness of authoritarianism in the classroom (see for example Adair, Banes, Jowitt, Shapiro, and Smith). While these works are groundbreaking and foundational, a st rong assessment of the dance discipline could show the interc onnections between thes e ideas and how they inform our experiences as dancers and edu cators. It is tempting, although simplistic to say that those issues are dire ctly caused by patriarchy but an in-depth analysis of how systems of power are deployed and circulate in a college level dance setting, would be indispensable. In doing this kind of anal ysis, we will have to acknowledge that technique classes often fail to promote the imaginative thinking, inquiry, and discovery that lead to the ability to cr eatively order and make flexible worlds from experiences and be wary of the ways in which theory cla sses idolize choreographers neglecting the
48 concept of the performer as a creative i ndividual who also employs artistic process strategies (Gibbons 13). Dance curriculum at a college level should be organized in a way that highlights a web of experiences rather than a collecti on of narrowly defined and discrete areas of study and take into account the way dan ce has conventionally emphasized gendered binaries (Gibbons 12). As Mar ilyn Frye writes, Sex-marking behavior is not optional; it is as obligatory as it is pervasive but does this mean that women and men in dance are relegated to traditional roles (21)? Can women ever represent themselves in classical ballet, can dance provide women a sour ce of agency and personal power (The Balanchine Woman 286)? There are no complete answers to these questions. One could argue that classical training prevents dancers from fully recogni zing and utilizing thei r own agency because the classroom relies on the ba nking model of education and limits female dancers to portraying characters that ar e socially recognized as femi nine. Another argument might address the idea that there is nothing inherent about the struct ure of dance as a field of study that prevents a dancer from questi oning the status quo. These conversations are important and need to be happening within the academic dance setting as well as the professional world so that st udents, professionals and teac hers can contribute to the construction of knowledge about dance. If we begin to expand our notions about what bodies can do with less focus on the sex of the individual performing would we not have more movement options and complex dynamics of expressiveness that we would be able to portray on the stage? Labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision so why dont well-known
49 ballet choreographers develop more gender be nding performances (Fausto-Sterling 3)? Traditionalists may argue that this thinking moves us towards favoring modern dance techniques and would in fact not be ballet at all. I want to be clear that I am arguing for dance to become a more intellectual and ar tistic project and would like to remind the reader todays modern dance is just as gende r-dichotomized as ball et (The Balanchine Woman 287). The majority of dance classr ooms codify masculine and feminine bodies in very specific ways, reflecting and amp lifying the ideals of our societies. As performances heighten our perception of rea lity they may present images to us of what should be and in this way observing a dance or participating in the creation of an artistic display can be a transformative experi ence (Shapiro 18). While dance in higher education is by no means solely responsibl e for constructing gendered bodies, dance teachers, educators, and choreographers should recognize how they reaffirm gendered binaries. Becoming familiar with feminist id eologies and styles of pedagogy will allow teachers and dancers to interact in hope-fill ed ways that promote critical thinking and creativity and will encourage them to see that the disciplinary power that inscribes femininity in the female body is everywhere and it is nowhere: the disciplinarian is everyone and yet no one in particular (Bartky 74).
50 Chapter Six Conclusion I began this project to demonstrate how familiarity with feminist theory and pedagogical styles could augment dance e ducation. I was disappointed that dance classrooms tend to be homogenous and are in credibly laden with negative messages about bodies, genders, and sexualities. I adam antly believe that feminist theory and pedagogy should be incorporated in dance cu rriculums. Fortunately, there are several scholars who have written about dance from a feminist perspectiv e and the possibilities for integrating these techniques in classrooms. Of course ther e is still more work to be done, including having dancers a nd choreographers themselves working in the areas of research and theory. Pursuing a career or continuing to study a t opic like dance after realizing that it is imbued w ith an abundance of negative cultural messages can be a daunting task. Understanding how patriarchal co ncepts operate in a dance classroom is a great place to start theorizing but it is im portant not to be deterred from actually implementing changes, which may intimidate many individuals. In this paper I provided a literature review to assist in the exploration of the genesis of dance in higher education. I found that this subjec t did not immediately emerge as a field of academic study and that in most colleges in the United States during the early twentieth century, dance programs were either non-existent or closely associated with physical education departments. Th ese athletic programs, which began to incorporate dance in the late nineteenth a nd early twentieth centuries, were decidedly
51 valued for being one of a few forms of exerci se that women could participate in without compromising their femininity. Although profe ssional dancers were criticized for having loose morals and female dancers were likened to prostitutes, dance eventually lost its stigma and came to occupy a small space in academia. In this atmosphere a traditional authoritarian classroom developed in whic h students were discouraged from actively participating and were encouraged to perform rote memorization of ideas and movements. In addition to not challenging dancer s to be critical thinkers, this widespread traditional pedagogical style also reinforces gendered binaries by constructing masculine and feminine bodies and by creating different expectations fo r individuals based on their sex categorization (West and Zimmerman). Drawing on the research I have read, my own background in dance and my observations from a modern technique class, I came to realize that while dance classes are expressly designed to regulate human bodies (at least the bodies that have access to these courses), during the time sp ent in class or onstage, these regulations also influence a dancers actions outside of the studio. The body is under constant scrutiny and within the dance discipline, failing to acquire the ideal body shape and mannerisms is grounds for exclusion. Limitations placed on bodies translat e into prohibitions of certain actions and themes in dance performance, for example, we typically do not see, particularly in ballets, same-sex partnering. Dance helps c onstruct appropriately gendered bodies and reinforces culturally accepted notions about masculinity and femininity while reaffirming the normality of heterosexual and patriarcha l relations (Crawley, Foley, and Shehan; Bartky). What gets represented then in dance performances, are homogenous bodies, derivative characters and them es that are predominantly hetereronormative. These aspects
52 of dance limit the ability of da ncers to fully create and explore their own artistry. For students, teachers, and chore ographers, it would be advantageous to employ a feminist lens to analyze the components of dance th at reinforce a multitude of inequalities and acknowledge that many creative individuals ha ve been excluded from traditional dance techniques. This awareness will open up the possibility of reaching more people and discovering new ideas within a class setting. Dance, like Womens Studies, has been accused of not being rigorous enough to hold a place within th e academy. I would argue that both fields have valuable knowledge to contribute to the academic world, and in a wa y that is uncharacteris tic of other areas of study; both dance (the ideal dance program) a nd Womens Studies necessarily seem to be engaged in consciousness-raising endeavors. It is my hope that teachers and students who find it necessary to prove the academic worth of dance do not lose sight of the emotional and transformative nature of performance as all three qualities are central to the continued development of this subject. I asse rt that by adopting femi nist principles in a college level dance setting students, teachers, and choreographers will be able to incorporate more original t houghts and experiences into performances allowing dancers to act as an independent agent in the clas sroom rather than as an insignificant cog grinding through the banking model of education (hooks, Freire). I think it is important to return to the question, are we traini ng students to be professional dancers or are we training students to be educat ors? Ultimately both kinds of training are necessary and will be beneficial to students whether they pursue employment as a performer or as a teacher. It is my understanding that one of the many goals of a liberal arts education is to produce well -rounded students who can adapt to handle a
53 multitude of situations as they arise throughout their academic careers. Preparing dancers for both of those paths will provide students with the most opportunities and make them more knowledgeable artists. While there may be a dispute about whether colleges should focus on turning out professional dancers or educators, there are specific feminist concepts we can integrate into dance classe s that will definitely benefit students and teachers, regardless of the path they will eventually undertake. First, dance educators who wish to teach utilizing a more feminist method than the traditional classroom offers, could intr oduce feminist philosophi es about bodies to their students. This might be achieved duri ng a brief lecture or by assigning dancers articles to read outside of class. A th orough discussion, for example, of the social construction of gender will help students rec ognize that performance is something we all engage in on a daily basis and that to a larg e extent we have learned how to behave and move based on whether or not we are consider ed female or male. One exercise to help students visualize the differences in moveme nt based on sex categorization could involve assigning students a gender identity that doe s not match their usua l gendered performance and then have them choreograph a short combination. Following from that, students could discuss how their work departed from wh at they are generally expected to do with their bodies and explain how they had to think or work in a different or similar manner to portray their assigned identity (West and Zimm erman). If this subject is studied in the context of dance performance students may b ecome aware, upon reflection, that we have chosen to accept a limited range of movements (particularly in ballet) in an effort to maintain a gender binary. Another change might include incorporating performance videos of dance companies that have actively sought to include in their work themes and
54 identities that have traditionally been unexplored. Both of these suggestions are designed to help students be more creative while re cognizing that dance, along with many other institutions, helps construct appropriately gendered bodies. Second, teachers and students must work together to develop a more cooperative and interactive approach to learning. Author itarianism in the classroom discourages critical and creative thinking while fostering a highly destructive competitive atmosphere among students. Using a feminist model, educ ators can help alleviate this problem by recognizing students for their various talents a nd encouraging them to look to one another for support or answers to questions rather than relying first and foremost on the instructor. Students learn that they can be a source of knowledge to their classmates and teacher in addition to discovering that ther e are a variety of ways to think about movement and narratives all while valuing what each person can bring to the dance classroom. For instance, instead of expecting stud ents to remain silent the entire class and follow a predetermined series of exercise s, teachers may engage students using a collection of techniques including working with students to create a syllabus and or goals for the course, allowing students to work toge ther (i.e. have students correct each other when learning a new combination or step or having a group of students facilitate an entire class period, etc), using the classroom in a di fferent way so that the teachers position does not always designate front, or even giving students assign ments that require them to think reflexively about the ways they themselves support or challenge authoritarianism in a class setting. Finally, teachers and students can benefit from seriously reflecting on and analyzing what they are hoping to achieve as a person involved in a college level dance
55 program. Not only does this prevent a one-way flow of information it also opens up a space for dissenting voices. Students may not have the same beliefs or aspirations as their teachers (or their peers) therefore it is necessary and important to discuss goals and expectations on a regular basis. Reflexivity in a dance class that employs feminist pedagogy should encourage students to critique unequal social relationships, ask why they exist and enrich the dancers cla ss experiences (Mayberry). As students and educators we can promote reflexivity by partic ipating in consciousness raising activities, which for example, may include something lik e sharing personal narratives or having dancers create their own curri culum in which they must add race, class and gender-based analyses of dance to the current syllabus (Bonnell; Higginbotham). Most importantly, we can help cultivate reflexivity among dancers and educators by providing safe places for self-expression by assigning journals or anonymous free writes, in which students respond to a prompt or general topic, during class time (Parry). These suggestions aim to deconstruct current modes of teaching that inhibit student growth and participation by altering the way dance is conceptualized in the academic world. Although it was not Margaret HDoublers goal to have dance established as an art form in academia, her efforts could be seen as one of the first volleys in a radical reconceptu alization of the arts as vital educational forces and as disciplines that might be thought about, and taught, as means toward the development of the mind (Ross 211, 214). It is my hope that da nce will continue to be reevaluated, and that feminist theories and pedagogical styles will be common in college dance classes. These alterations and observat ions that the field of Wome ns Studies can bring to the studio, will help dance be rec onceptualized both as a means to challenge and develop the
56 mind but also as an entertaining and evocativ e art form that can highlight inequity and promote social change through ingenu ity. As Sherry Shapiro argues in Dance, Power and Difference arts education can only become revolutionary as it shows us what is happening in our lives and communities and gives us a heightened awareness of what we think things should be.
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