Masculinity in Modern Dance:
Assignment No. 2B
Sufyan Bin Rosman (S9127872C)
Group No. 24
WRIT001/Term 1 – 2012/2013
I declare that this Assignment is my original work and all information obtained from other sources has been cited accordingly.
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Prof. Shirley Alexander
Masculinity in Modern Dance: Model Redefined.
“Dance is a manly sport…” (Jowitt, 2010, p.231), said Ted Shawn, a distinguished forerunner of modern dance. Male modern dancers have been fighting for their masculinity in dance for ages. They have arduously exerted to characterize dance as a worthy profession for men through press reports and hype enthused (Jowitt, 2010). However, there has been a shift in the way masculinities have been portrayed within modern dance.
History of Modern Dance
Modern dance, born from the rebellion of the rigidities of classical ballet, brought about refutation of the male gaze on women. Martha Graham, a prominent figure in modern dance, “built her famous technique and early repertory techniques on the female body”(Bannerman, 2010, p.32). As females are more lithe in the pelvis than men such that men have claimed to have “vagina envy”, thus showing the men’s aspirations to have the same litheness as women (Bannerman, 2010).
In society, masculinity is defined as having the inherent qualities that a man should possess. These qualities include gender domination, having authority as well as holding roles appropriate for men within a patriarchal society. Masculinity has traditionally been classified in dancing as the authority enacted through men’s control over women in which he partnered (Jowitt, 2010; Jordan, 1996). Having power in dancers’ movements validates mannish audacity (Jowitt, 2010; as cited in LaBoskey, 2002). The power in movements showed that men had control over their lives. Characters selected embodied traditional masculinity evidenced by how the “roles they chose affirmed masculinity.” (Jowitt, 2010, p.231) and to fit typecasts of the male (LaBoskey, 2002). These confirmatory factors meant dancers require portraying traditional masculinity in order to satisfy the gender mold fitted onto men by a patriarchal society.
However, in recent years, there has been a change from such traditional masculinity to one of a “New Man” model that is not inconvenienced by customary masculine stereotypes, and has the ability to empathize, even articulating a feminine side of his character (Jordan, 1996). The new models allowed men to be more expressive in terms of gender characteristics. This led to blurring of gender demarcations through “loosening the prescriptive meanings of… masculinity (in)… modern and contemporary approaches to movement” (Kelly, 2011, p.52). The freeing of typecasts, allow for portrayal of softer manliness, which has been categorized conventionally as feminine.
If the “New Man” model is as liberating as it seems, why do men still have to portray distinctly stereotypical masculinity to gain acceptance by the public audience? Even though the “New Man” model of masculinity has been gaining greater acceptance within modern dance, through portraying softer masculinities, is this really the case? Male modern dancers have been portraying less traditional concepts of masculinity in particular, the “New Man” model, however, there are still underlying traits of hegemonic masculinity cloaked beneath this new model to allow for society’s acceptance.
Modern dance provided equal footing in terms of power and representation of men and women. This was due to a wave of “Feminism… radical philosophy of equality between the sexes in all spheres of life” (as cited in Bannerman, 2010). To certain extremes, allowing women to overtake men in terms...
References: Anderson, E. & Peterson, G T. (2012). The Performance of Softer Masculinities on
the University Dance Floor. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 20(1) pp. 3-15.
Bannerman, H. (2010). Martha Graham’s House of the Pelvic Truth: The Figuration of Sexual Identities and Female Empowerment. Dance Research Journal, 42(1), 30-44
Fasick, L. (2007) Using Music and Dance to Explore Gender Norms. International Journal of the Humanities, 5(2), 47-51
Jordan C. (1996). Gender and class mobility in Saturday night fever and flash dance. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 24(3), 116-122
Jowitt, D. (2010).
Dancing Masculinity: Defining the Male Image Onstage in Twentieth- Century America and Beyond, Southwest Review, 95(1/2), 227-242.
Kelly, M T. (2011). Contemporary Dance and Evolving Femininities. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, 6(2), pp. 50-66.
LaBoskey, S. Getting Off: Portrayals of masculinity in hip hop dance in film. Dance Research Journal, 33(2), ProQuest Research Library, pg.112.
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