Dance with Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy

Dance with Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy

Dance with Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy

Dance with Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy

Excerpt

Walking in the door to DanceSport Academy in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, for the first time on July 28, 2010, the first person I see is dancer Jean Paulovich (figures 3.3 and 7.2), and although he does not recall my name, we instantly recognize each other based on a photo I took of him at his first professional competition, at the 2004 Yankee Classic DanceSport Championships in Boston, Massachusetts. That we each knew who the other was more than six years later—and both recalled the exact pose and costume in that single photograph—illustrates the power of image in the world of competitive ballroom. More than just a means of facilitating entry and access into ballroom, the inextricable intertwining of looking, seeing, and knowing enables images to convey understandings not possible from words alone. It is in this light that I hope you enjoy the images in this book and, more important, that they not only help illustrate the textual content but also provide insights.

Paralleling Isadora Duncan’s comment, “If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it,” much the same can be said of photography: if I could tell you, there would be no need to show it. But photographs are tricky things. Because we each bring our own backgrounds, experiences, and understandings to the images we see, it is easy to mistake self-evident content and meaning as universal, enduring, and fixed. Indeed, “photographs are ambiguous. They may be worth a thousand words, but it can be any thousand words.” It is therefore important for scholars to think about and understand the strengths (and weaknesses) of both text and image and to harness and juxtapose these tools accordingly. “Used correctly photographs and words can work together to produce the desired ethnographic meanings,” and the following comments detail the considerations that went into the three interrelated processes of crafting, selecting, and captioning the images in this text.

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