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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Dancing

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Author Topic: Dancing
orca
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So I saw a clip from Dancing with the Stars that really bothered me. This couple was dancing some sexy dance and right when they come out on stage, the guy rips off the bottom part of her dress and the girl falls to the ground while he uses her skirt as a bullfighter uses a cloak. Then he puts the skirt back on her after she shows her submission. I don't know, maybe I'm just being a bit too sensitive, but that just looked so sexist to me. It basically showed that men should have power over women and it reduced women to being nothing more than some object for men's amusement. Am I seeing way too much into that? What really bothered me was that everyone cheered and cheered and the judges loved it. That was the first time I've seen the show so I don't know if that's just the norm on the show. It just bothers me that such displays are the normal in our society and that people love that display. Maybe I am getting too worked up about it. Anybody else have a problem with that kind of stuff?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Beppie
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Orca, I don't watch the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars, but from what you've described, I think your analysis of that particular routine is quite apt. Unfortunately, the idea that men have power over women, and that women are objects for men's pleasure is so deeply ingrained that people don't really notice that it exists at all-- it's just "natural" rather than socially constructed gender roles. That is why people cheer, etc-- they simply think it's nature.
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wobblyheadedjane
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Not to mention the whole concept of the male dancer being the 'leader' and so forth. Though I've always loved the quote that "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels," as an illustration that it's not quite as simple as it looks.

Not sure if this is an option for you to watch, but "So you think you can dance" is a show that has some really different spins on gender roles in dancing. A lot of the time, competitors are solo, so there's not gender dichotomy there, though they are still partnered opposite sex for the partnered sessions. But the styles range from everything, ballroom, hip hop, musical, jazz, new age, etc. I think my favourite was one where a duo that did a krumping dance. The woman had just as raw and energetic choreography as the male, and it was just incredibly fun to watch.

Also, this is the show that came up with the infamous Zombie Dance to an awesome Roisin Murphy song.

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Unlucky at cards; lucky at love.

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LucysDiamonds
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As a swing dancer myself, I have to disagree with you, Jane. To non-dancers, yes, the male is the accepted "lead," but in the actual dance community, it's equally acceptable for a female to lead and a male to follow. At really good dance conventions, you NEVER hear of the "male" footwork or "female" footwork: it is always lead/follow. I've been led by plenty of women, and I have actually myself led a couple of my male friends.

Not only that, but the Ginger Rogers quote also really does show that a good follow is just as good as a good lead. They're only called lead/follow because the former initiates most moves; I say most because there are quite a few moves that the follow can play with and add his/her own flair to. People do give just as much credit and appreciation to outstanding follows as they do to outstanding leads. So, I'd really appreciate it if you could separate a non-dancer's opinion from the dancer's reality.

(Sorry if this came across harshly - I really don't mean to be snide or anything; I'm just very protective of my dancing community. [Smile] )

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So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly

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LHangel
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I do not think your are getting too worked up; you are just expressing your reaction. I've had the same reaction many times to things that other people treated as innocuous.

That being said, I disagree with you on this point. I just watched the clip and I did not feel that at all. That's not to say you're wrong; I just got a different feeling from it. The dance they did was the pase doble, which is supposed to represent bullfighting, so I think it is expected that the man is going to give the illusion of a bullfighter. I thought it was done quite well, actually. After the skirt was taken off you could not see the exposed skin so I did not feel like they were treating her as a sex object. Also, I did not feel like it was submissive at all because she did not really act in relation to him. She didn't really act much at all at that point; if anything she was passive, not submissive. It is not surprising that the woman would be passive in this case because it was the man that was competing so he needed to showcase his talents. So while associating women with passivity is not necessarily a positive thing, I don't think it meant anything here. It was just a strategic move to help the man get ahead in the competition.

Also, as a dancer, I think it is too facile to want to think of the woman, traditionally the "follower," as the submissive victim. In reality, the follower has a lot of control. She does not have to do whatever the man (or woman) leads her to do. She can always hijack or backlead and change the course of the dance. She is not powerless. I am just pointing this out to ensure that you do not let traditional dance roles color your perception of the dance.

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LHangel
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Lucy,
I am a swing dancer also, and I completely agree with you. I don't think it came across harshly. It was a good analysis. Dance roles are not as strict as they seem to those uninitiated to partner dance.

In fact, the male dancers I know love for women to lead them. They LOVE it. The really good dancers like women who can lead them because it makes things more interesting. The last thing they want is a woman without her own ideas who just do whatever he leads.

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LucysDiamonds
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LHangel --
Exactly my point! When I finally started hijacking moves or changing what I was doing mid-turn or whatever, my leads were ecstatic.

I don't know a whole lot about other kinds of dances (yet!) but from watching them and talking to other dancers, dancing itself is very very much about equality between a lead and a follow. There's nothing submissive or degrading about following, and there's nothing inherently empowering or better about being a lead. Dancing does not work if the two dancers do not see each other as equals and do not work together as equals to make the dance happen.

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So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly

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ayeayeaye
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I agree with LHangel....it sounds like the dance that was being doing was Pase Doble which is a dance in which the male represents a bullfighter and the female represents the bull. So really, it has nothing to do with society and males thinking they are superior or anything like that, its simply what that dance is and how it's always been done. I really would not take offence to it.
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Leabug
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I'm gonna play devil's advocate here, although I know nothing about dance...

Doesn't it seem a little strange to you though, that in the pase doble the MALE would be the bullfighter, while the WOMAN has to be the bull?

No matter how you cut it, a bullfight is about the matadore having mastery over the bull, and I do definately see patriarchal symbolism in that dance.

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Lea

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dailicious
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Actually, if I'm not mistaken, the Paso Doble is about the Torero (bullfighter, the male dancer) and his cape (his female partner), not the bull, which changes the signifigance of the dance and the two roles quite considerably.

It still sounds as though the version of the dance performed on the show was not done as tastefully (or possibly accurately for that matter), however.

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Jean
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LucysDiamonds
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I couldn't find the exact dance that sparked this thread, but I did find a number of other performances of the Paso Doble (from Dancing w/ the Stars) on youtube and though I don't know a lot about this dance in particular, it did look much more like the woman was the cape by the way she was moving/being moved.

Just to point out again, though, Leabug, in dancing it's a matter of leading and following, rather than a matter of a male and a female. Two women could in theory dance this, or two men, or a man and a woman but in reversed roles. But really, it would be much harder for some of the moves if the roles were reversed, and it wouldn't look half as graceful or have the same visual effect. Women choose to do these kinds of things; it's not like somebody is forcing them to be a cape. It's part of a beautiful, traditional dance (and it really is beautiful - look up other versions of the Paso Doble on youtube, there are a lot of them and while most of them end up with the woman on the floor or something, that IS the way the dance is supposed to be done and there are also a number of instances when the lead is on his knees with the follow in the dominant position).

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So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly

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KittenGoddess
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I just wanted to toss a note in here about perception, since that seems to be at the crux of part of this discussion.

In the classes I teach, we spend a lot of time talking about perception. Someone sends a message, somebody else receives that message. Who's perception matters in deciding how the message is received? The receiver. See, the receiver is not able to know the exact thoughts or intentions of the sender. They can only view the message that's been sent and draw upon their own past experiences and what they know of the sender to allow them to understand the meassage.

So I guess what I'm trying to point out here is that while members of the dance community may be aware a dancer of any gender can lead, how many members of the regular viewing audience would be aware of that? And without that knowledge, what might we expect the perception of the dance to be?

As well, I would toss out the idea that "tradition" itself is a pretty forceful power.

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Sarah Liz

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LHangel
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You can see the video on ABC's website (http://abc.go.com/index.html). It is from the last show. They have the entire show online. The dance was the very last dance so it is at the end of the episode. I didn't find any smaller clips of just the dance, but there may be some up by now.

My former dance instructor loves to genderbend and he looks good in either role. He looks better following than many women. In fact, he won first place in a jack and jill dance competition as a follower. :-)~

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LucysDiamonds
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You make a really good point, Sarah Liz. I guess all I can say to that is: well, then, I'll try to educate as many people as I can, because really I promise dancing is not nearly as patriarchal as it may seem!

An interesting sidenote that just occurred to me - and I know there have been discussions of this elsewhere on this forum - is the sexualization of belly dancing. It's traditionally a dance just for women, but it has become sexualized. So there's another instance of perception-distortion for ya!

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So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly

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ayeayeaye
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dalilicoius! you are totally right...it is about the bullfighter and the cape. The cape is suppose to be flowy and beautiful as the woman is representing it! And with the whole dominate/submission male/female thing, its rooted a long time ago, this is a very old dance just as many other types of ballroom dancing are and while things are different nowadays...gender roles were much different years ago and still are in different countries(like spain or mexico where this dance originated).
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Smiley64
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i saw that dance.. it was very lowering to his partner.i think media has made women out to be very confident and able to hold their own, but it has also made men still by far superior.. it's very aggrivating to see the number of men who think that women are objects, and how surprised they are when a girl actually stands up to him. i think that males and females should be equal and be caring towards each other.
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spicedudette
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I think equality means women has the choice to participate in that dance or not. Just like in sex, sometimes he's on top and sometimes she's on top.
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