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Throughout this course we have learned about dances from different cultures around the world. We focused on gender, origins of the dances, and multiple other aspects of where dances come from. An interesting part that stood out to me while learning about these dances were how gender played a role in dance. After analyzing contemporary dance, hip hop, and contact improvisation dance, I will be focusing on the different gender stereotypes set on those dances.
To many people, dance isn’t constantly observed as a type of art. Truth be told, it is one of the most expressive structures in the art world. Dance is universal, so there are a wide range of types, originating from societies everywhere throughout the world; contemporary dance, hip hop, contact improvisation, and the list continues. As spectators, we look at dance and notice the movement, music, costumes, and the story behind it. In any case, do we notice the gender role? Assuming this is the case, what sorts of dances or cultures show the role that gender places in dances or do they set a stereotype ?
There are various perspectives about dancers and what individuals see as the stereotypical dancer. For instance, there are numerous individuals out there today who don’t see male dancers pursuing a career in dance. In any case, frames of mind have changed about male dancers now. Many male dancers are seeking a vocation in dance. Currently, it is less complicated for men to get into top dance companies than women.
Furthermore, it is observed that males are the lifters when there is contact between a male and a female dancer. This makes crowds and others believe that ladies are not fit for lifting males and might make them look more fragile. The University of Oregon stated ‘to others it might be uncomfortable to see because it challenges the norms. Nevertheless, does that make it bad? Almost every new dance that enters the dance world challenges what the norm before.’ (University of Oregon, 2014)
For instance, there are numerous photos out there that show the male off as the more grounded dancer. Also, media shows that male dancers should only be lifting female dancers. This can make the female dancers feel a type of way because in many cases it can make it seem as if women are not fit to do the same job. It is pictures that exhibits to audiences that men consistently do the lifting. For what reasons are there not pictures of women doing the same effort as the men ?
Contemporary dance has had a major impact on changing perspectives and removing the obstacles that have shaped as the years progressed. For instance, in classical dance it was consistently the male dancers dancing with female dancers(Albright,8). There was never same sex dancers dancing together. Nevertheless, now there are same sex couples dancing together. This exhibits my first point about how dancers challenge the standards and make distinctive ‘standards.’
Inside Hip Hop, gender stereotypes are not made because many hip hop dancers dance individually or in a group. In hip hop dance there is a significant feeling of unity because of how male and female dancers are perceived from what they wear and what it is that they do(LaBoskey,118). For instance, when dancing, the artists are dancing together in the same movement. Additionally, the dancers wear the same clothing and this gives the notice that both female and male are united together.
Finally, when looking into Contact Improvisation, Steve Paxton clarified male and female dancers should dance together so that the dance could be produced in the best way.(Paxton,259). The University of Oregon states, “Contact improv involves leaning your weight on the other person while the other person does the same. One person will move and the other would have to go off what that person does. The dance can include lifting each other with different parts of their body.’ (University of Oregon, 2014). The dancers need to depend and believe each other to make the dance look effortless. Stereotypes are not portrayed in all forms of this dance. The stereotype is set when the dance consists of leaning and lifting.
Each dance style is distinct because of the time it was formed, the individual who had created the style of dance and so on. The period of the dance style is significant because it decides the way that the dance is represented, and the ways female and male dancers play a role in the dance. For instance, take ballet. Ballet was a dance that was established for female dancers. In the 1960’s male dancers were never heard of doing ballet. This is a big deal for male dancers to do ballet. Now ballet is a well recognized dance that men are participating in.
We see these gender roles in dance, however the dance world is always growing and making new dances, where we see greater fairness between genders. I think in the United States we are accustomed to seeing male dancers being the person who assist the female dancer and that is the reason we see it so regularly. However in other cultures male and female dancers don’t dance together. In certain types of dance, we see that same genders can dance together and have it be acknowledged. In spite of the fact that these gender stereotypes are found in dance, dance enables dancers to prove otherwise and go against the odds. That is the reason why dance is such an incredible type of artwork.
In conclusion, contact improvisation, hip hop, and contemporary dance expresses the gender stereotypes that are set through dance. Contemporary dance was established to change the ideal image of dancers dancing together. In most cases, contemporary dances consist of male dancers doing duets. Contact Improvisation has stereotypes but only when certain actions are being done. In contrast to contact improvisation and contemporary dance, hip hop doesn’t hold any stereotypes. Society looks at hip hop as a dance that doesn’t have boundaries within gender. Stereotypes set on dancers has portrayed that image that women cannot do the same things that men can do.
I feel that it should not be a problem if women are lifting the men and whether they are viewed as breaking the ‘standards’ of what is really occurring among male and female dancers today. Weather woman have the strength and are eager to lift the men, then why does society have an issue with it and considers it to be unusual?
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