Monday, 28 May 2007

Dance Discrimmination

Published: May 21, 2007

Dance schools and dance companies have strong ideas about what a dancer should look like. Different dance forms, classical and contemporary ballet, jazz, musical theatre, modern etc all have ranges of body types and colors. Dance body types are not anointed by the gods, nor are they predetermined by our genes, they are cultural, which means they are decided by what everyone is accustomed to seeing.

Long-legged delicate sylphs were not always the norm in ballet. Once upon a time, the basic ballet body type was short and stocky, because stocky dancers tend to be stronger and have better endurance than the delicately boned creatures who now inhabit dance, but Balanchine liked a different look and he had the power to change the world. Now stocky (muscularly built) girls are relegated to the dust heap of classical dance and even stocky men have a hard time of it.

Dance companies say that people only want to see what our culture deems 'beautiful dancers' but it's a vicious cycle, what we see as beautiful was decided for us and we all went along. Give us something else and, after an appropriate amount of complaining, we'll see that as the norm and the sylphs will have a hard time getting in the door.

"I think there's something about a denial of death in all of this, and connected to that a denial of change, that our bodies change and decompose over time," said the San Francisco choreographer Eric Kupers, "A lot of these standards that people try to measure up to are trying to freeze us in time...In dance, fashion, the movies, we want people to look like adolescents...We don't want wrinkles, cellulite. We don't want to see the indications of our own mortality."

Source: RiDance

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