Final I Just Want to Get My Groove On: An African American Experience with Race, Racism, and the White Aesthetic in Dance

By Patton, Tracey Owens | Journal of Pan African Studies, September 15, 2011 | Go to article overview

Final I Just Want to Get My Groove On: An African American Experience with Race, Racism, and the White Aesthetic in Dance


Patton, Tracey Owens, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

I appreciate dance. I have to dance. It is difficult for me to sit and watch other dancers in motion without imagining myself dancing on stage with them. While I am not a professional dancer, I dance with an appreciation for the art. At 5'9, 113 pounds, and as a tri-racial (1) African American, (2) I never thought I could become a professional dancer. I did not attend a performing arts K-12 school, nor did I major in dance when I was an undergraduate or graduate student. Rather, I danced ballet, tap, and jazz at private studios until I was twenty years old. Even though I did not major in dance, I still had secret desires to dance professionally. However, my dreams were derailed at twenty-one when I had a severe knee injury that resulted in three reconstructive surgeries. Combine the knee problems with a successful, but distracting victory over cancer, and there went any dreams I had in regard to professional dance. However, once healed, my love of the art pushed me to take dance again as an adult. I continue to dance ballet and jazz, but have added pointe, hip-hop, and modern to my repertoire, as well as dancing for a local dance company. Being a dancer in this company is a dream come true, and one that I thought would forever elude me.

As an active dancer, writing this autoethnography is quite difficult. I am not examining whether or not a dancer experiences more or less racism or oppression if one dances with a majority African American or Euro American dance company as that is an entirely different article. However, in this article, I examine the complicated and multi-dimensional roles that Black women and men have endured in dance generally using my personal experiences in White homogenous studios as an exemplar. Therefore, issues of integration and acceptance or non-acceptance within dance may be referenced either through my experiences or through others illustrative experiences. While some people like to imagine that in the twenty-first century, issues of racism are long in the past; e.g., post-racism, (3) I argue that the U.S. continues to deal with the legacy of racism and artistic fields such as dance are no exception. The shape of one's body, the color of one's skin and/or the texture of one's hair can have a greater impact, sometimes, more than the gifts a dancer is able to bring to a studio or company. Being seen as "different" can cause one not to be cast, or taken out of roles one had in preference of a certain aesthetic--in some cases that preference is White. Using autoethnography, coupled with interview data and examples from the historical foundations and marginalization of African Americans in dance, the questions of race, identity, and marginalization are explored as they concern ballet, modern, jazz, tap, and hip-hop genres. The examples used in this paper illustrate a White supremacist, hegemonic aesthetic that explicates and illuminates issues of marginalization in dance. This paper will increase awareness about the interlocking systems of domination in the dance world at the microlevel. This microlevel lens, therefore, exposes important meanings of marginalization that may occur but possibly go unnoticed at the macrolevel.

Black Diversity in Dance: A Literature Review

I am leery about critiquing a field that brings me so much spiritual joy. Dancing allows me to speak my narrative using my body as the instrument of communication. Writing about my dance experience over the last three decades allows me an avenue to take agency over the marginalizing experiences I have had in the dance world. I have never danced regionally or nationally as a professional, and, therefore, some people may choose to dismiss my experiences, as dance is a passionate hobby for me, not the way I make my living. However, being a non-professional dancer does not negate the fact that the ripples of racism, marginalization, and power can be felt at the highest levels of the profession all the way down to the hobbyist level; thus, at times, exposing a marginalizing culture endemic to dance generally.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Final I Just Want to Get My Groove On: An African American Experience with Race, Racism, and the White Aesthetic in Dance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.