When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities across Borders

When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities across Borders

When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities across Borders

When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities across Borders


While dance has always been as demanding as contact sports, intuitive boundaries distinguish the two forms of performance for men. Dance is often regarded as a feminine activity, and men who dance are frequently stereotyped as suspect, gay, or somehow unnatural. But what really happens when men dance?

When Men Danceoffers a progressive vision that boldly articulates double-standards in gender construction within dance and brings hidden histories to light in a globalized debate. A first of its kind, this trenchant look at the stereotypes and realities of male dancing brings together contributions from leading and rising scholars of dance from around the world to explore what happens when men dance. The dancing male body emerges in its many contexts, from the ballet, modern, and popular dance worlds to stages in Georgian and Victorian England, Weimar Germany, India and the Middle East. The men who dance and those who analyze them tell stories that will be both familiar and surprising for insiders and outsiders alike.


Because two of the seminal terms in this book’s title are sometimes hard to pin down—Whose version of masculinity? What sort of dancing?—they seem to require some definitions at the start. Yet, as the working title “Dance and Masculinity” was used while we gathered contributions and explained the book to both insiders and outsiders for the past several years, everyone seemed to agree there is a lot to say about the topic, as if we all knew what we meant. in some ways that’s true: a fairly common understanding of dance is that it’s what occurs when the body moves in patterned or improvised ways that are different from the movements of the nondancing body; and that dance occurs onstage, in social life, and during celebrations. in this volume, we are careful to use the term “dance” only in reference to activities the participants themselves define that way, as opposed to movement forms that exist in rituals or trance, for instance. Because this book originates in North America, it often focuses on concert dance forms, with some mention of social dance and spectacle; but, significantly, there are also essays about popular and classical dance forms that originated in other parts of the world, especially in Asia and the Middle East.

A working definition of “masculinity” is trickier. It can be described in many ways to indicate variations in behavior that revolve around different cultures, experiences, and points of view. Given that acknowledgment of variation, a starting point here will be the fact that the term is so often associated with biologically defined males, and that it tends to be accompanied by notions of its presumed opposite, “femininity.” Beyond that, the debates correctly begin, given what masculinity can mean in different contexts, and given the slippage that can occur between conceptions of “sexuality” and “gender.” Still, a common reaction to this book’s working title tended to be, “Dance and masculinity, yes, there’s a problem—I could tell you stories…” Some of those stories appear here, in a selection of scholarly essays and personal histories that engage the history and theory surrounding issues of dance and masculinities, the plural term that more correctly describes the number of choices and paths that are taken.

When it comes to the intertwining valences associated with the terms “sex” and “gender,” the feminist historiography of dance has featured prominent . . .

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