I am a female dancer; not a feminine dancer.
In response to reading Sophie’s recent blog post about Young Women and dance, Rachel thought she would share some of her thoughts about the gender roles she has experienced as a dancer and as an apprentice for Attik Dance.
In some dance classes I’ve taken and some performances I have done, I’ve been required to perform movement with feminine stylistic qualities. These include the stereotypical pushing out of breasts, flirtatious faces and cheesy grins. I am a woman and I typically don’t dance with a “flirtatious” style, because to me, that is not what it means to be a woman. At Attik Youth Dance Company, things are different. When I have danced with them I have never been asked to dance “as a girl” but rather, as myself. When there have been guys at Attik Youth Dance Company, they have always been asked to dance as themselves too and this, to me, has meant that we have been able to dance together with equality.
I’m not saying that dancing as a girly girl or manly man is wrong – I’m sure a great wealth of musicals and shows wouldn’t be so great if those stylistic qualities were a miss (T-Birds without the testosterone anyone?) – but I don’t think these gender roles should be imposed on young people. We shouldn’t be teaching young boys that for them to be great dancers, they need to be able to lift girls over their heads and likewise for the girls, to be able to be lifted. When I’ve gone into primary schools with Attik and have done contact work as a part of Attik Youth Dance Company, I have always been taught how to lift and be lifted. It’s brilliant to see partners of all ages and genders learn how to share and displace each others weight which in turn teaches them how capable they are as a person who can do both no matter who they are.
By giving every member of the class an opportunity to take part in the same tasks, there is no segregation of responsibility and assumption of abilities. They are not given a gender role and so their identities and voices are not disregarded. In a world that is becoming ever clearer about the transgender, agender, bigender and many other gender identities that exist in this world, it is comforting to be in a company that allows me to dance as me and not the gender society assigns me.