Granny’s story: Trauma, dance, (smoking & drinking) and chronic illness

Owton, Helen (2010). Granny’s story: Trauma, dance, (smoking & drinking) and chronic illness. In: 6th Meeting of the Transnational Working Group for the Study of Gender and Sport, 26-27 Nov 2010, University of Bath.



A life history approach was employed to interview my grandmother about her life experiences involving a life of dance and a late onset of chronic illness. At 3 years old, after being involved in an accident resulting in a full body plaster cast, she was told that she “would never walk again”. Through ‘physical jerk’ classes, she was walking within 6 months. These classes were the grounding for her involvement in dance. The research explored how dance was central to her life and dealing with the ‘late diagnosis’ of asthma. Despite being labelled a ‘panter’ throughout her life, she was not diagnosed with asthma until the age of 76 years. Many dancers are not very verbal people because they are trained to express themselves through their body and are assumed to have extreme body consciousness. Indeed they communicate through their bodies when they are not even dancing (Wulff, 1998; 2007). This research attempts to add insight into females’ embodied experiences of dance together with a dancer’s experience of the ‘late-onset of asthma’ through exploration of a life history. The experience of researching a family relative will also be discussed. This is part of a larger project exploring sportspeople’s experiences of ‘late onset’ asthma diagnosis.

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