Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Men Who Dance: Aesthetics, Athletics and the Art of Masculinity

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

Men Who Dance: Aesthetics, Athletics and the Art of Masculinity

Article excerpt

Gard, M. 2006. Men Who Dance: Aesthetics, Athletics and the Art of Masculinity. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN. 0 8204 7266 2.

Men Who Dance by Michael Gard offers a rich analysis of the complex ways gendered discourses of aesthetics, physicality and sexuality inform what it means to be a male dancer. Gard's exploration engages powerfully with notions of bodies, emotions and sensations to show how the physical experience of dance simultaneously reinforces and resists dominant regimes of gendered embodiment. Based on highly individual and detailed accounts, the book provides valuable insights into the contextually specific ways in which the construction of an aesthetic of the self is negotiated and produced. Perhaps more importantly however, these accounts reveal the idea and practice of dance, as well as its bodily emotions and sensations, as transformative and dynamic- 'theatrical dance', argues Gard, 'because it is still so much at odds with 'everyday' Western masculine embodiment... [it]... represents a very different way of being a man'.

To remind the reader of some of the difficulties involved in becoming a male dancer, Gard begins the first chapter with a short story; a story of a boy who wants to dance. Through a brief exploration of Jump, a children's picture book, Gard retells the story of Steven, a young boy, who watches his sister's ballet lessons. When Steven asks his mother if he can dance he is told that dance classes are not for 'real boys'. Through a series of events his mother comes to realise that her son will make a fine dancer too despite the fact that he is a boy. This story highlights how socially constructed notions of gender shape what it means to be a male and a male dancer. Chapter Two proceeds to consider the theoretical framework which underpins the research into the involvement of men in ballet. Here Gard suggests that a theory, historically and culturally, sensitive to 'embodied subjectivity' has the potential to uncover a multiplicity of discursive social practices and subjects. Chapters Three and Four return to a historical review of both popular and academic literature concerned with male involvement in theatrical dance and ballet. …

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