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Dancing Gender: Exploring embodied masculinities - Craig Owen

Dancers performing 'Chicken Walks' at Blackpool ballroom

Within popular culture we have recently witnessed a proliferation of male dancers. This has been spear-headed by the success of the BBC television program Strictly Come Dancing. The current cultural fascination with dance provides a stark contrast to traditional discourses in England that position dance as a female activity, with men’s participation frequently associated with homophobic stigma. We therefore have a context in which multiple and contradictory discourses on masculinity are available for men to make sense of themselves. This thesis explored how young men negotiate these discourses when learning to dance.


The research was based upon an ethnographic study of capoeira and Latin and ballroom dance classes in South West England. The core methods included 1) four years of embodied fieldwork in the form of the researcher learning to dance, 2) writing field-notes and collecting multi-media artefacts, 3) interviewing dancers, and 4) photographing dancers in action. The researcher also drew upon a diverse range of subsidiary methods that included producing a dance wall of collected images and artefacts, cataloguing relevant dance websites and YouTube videos, and extensive use of Facebook for publishing photographs, sharing resources and negotiating ongoing informed consent.


The findings of this PhD identify how learning capoeira and Latin and ballroom dance produces embodied, visual and discursive transitions in male dancers’ performances of masculine identities. The analysis focused on three sets of practices that work to support or problematise the transitions in masculine identities in dance classes. These practices included 1) dancing with women in ballroom dancing, 2) performing awesome moves in capoeira, and 3) men’s experiences of stiff hips. In examining transitions across these three processes the thesis documented the changing possibilities and constraints on embodied masculinities in dance.

To download Craig's PhD thesis click here: https://bath.academia.edu/CraigOwen

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