"I want to be a ballet teacher just like you": Gendered Tensions in Dance

Owton, Helen and Clegg, Helen (2016). "I want to be a ballet teacher just like you": Gendered Tensions in Dance. In: Gender and Inequalities in Sport Conference, 17 Mar 2016, Milton Keynes, UK.


In dance, such as ballet, males are the minority within the western world (Risner, 2007). Previous research suggests that whilst boys who dance may experience various forms of bullying outside the dance environment within the dance world they often experience a privileged position (Risner, 2014). Such privilege extends beyond the child's dance studio and into the adult world of professional dance where more men occupy higher positions (Meglin & Brooks, 2012, Wright, 2013). Furthermore, dance teachers act as important role models (Aujla et al, 2014) and male role models are recognised as important sources of support, especially by boys (Risner, 2009, 2014). This suggests that male dance teachers can offer something beyond that of female dance teachers for boys. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore female dance teachers' perspectives of the gendered (im)balances in relation to their own and their male colleagues’ experiences. In this study, eight female dance teachers across the UK were interviewed and data was analysed from a feminist phenomenologically-inspired approach. Early data analysis suggests that tensions exist around gendered opportunities in dance. In particular, men and boys were considered to “have it easier” both in the dance studio, where they were nurtured, and in the professional dance world, regardless of ability. Overall, this analysis highlights the construction of intercorporeal gendered tensions within the dance world that are focused around gender difference, status and privilege.

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