Professor Marlen Harrison
1 March 2010
The Perception of Male Dancers
When dealing with sexuality, stereotyping heterosexual males as homosexuals leads to the highest risk for suicide (Dorais). Boys as young as 5 years old are quick to make fun of male dancers (Fisher). Other cultures allow men to dance without being ridiculed, why not the United States? In Africa, men become more powerful as they stomp their feet to the beat (Harper). Americans should realize that dancing, for men, is exceptionally beneficial and is not looked down upon in every culture.
I am doing this research because dance is one of my greatest passions in life. I have danced for over twelve years and not once have I had a male in any of my dance classes. I am curious as to why men perceive dancing as such a feminine activity. Dance is a fantastic and active way to stay in shape. Famous football players are known to have taken dance lessons to help their form. Why are they not perceived as homosexuals or feminine? Does football cancel out dancing? I want to have a better understanding of why it is not typical for males to dance. I want my research to benefit these male dancers. I want America to have a more open mind and not just assume all males who dance must be queer.
As my methodology, I wish to figure out non male dancers’ thought processes and why they believe males dancing is a feminine activity. Researching men’s thoughts on males dancing will help me have a better idea as to why they think like they do. I also want to understand why they think it is okay to stereotype all men as homosexual if they dance. Maybe, they grew up with this idea. I believe that women stereotype male dancers as well. Although, I am just focusing on the men who stereotype other men who dance.
Other resources I have researched discuss a great deal about stereotypes of male dancers, males dancing in different cultures and health benefits of dancing. I am determined to combine all three of these aspects and simply ask why do non dancing men stereotype male dancers? There are a variety of stress management approaches dealing with dance that may benefit men’s health (Hanna). Most men seem to be so close minded about dance that they would never consider dancing for this reason. I plan to portray the benefits of dancing and why more men should dance.
My hypothesis with this research topic is that most people I interview will look down and ridicule male dancers. They may possibly think that all male dancers’ sexuality is homosexual. This is already proven wrong in my secondary research because one article states that only about half of male dancers are homosexual (Risner). Another hypothesis I have is that being a male dancer out of high school is easier than being one in primary and secondary education. I believe this because once a dancer reaches college, they are in a department dealing only with dancers who will be less judgmental and more accepting. My primary research, researching males who do not dance, will help me understand these questions. Using other resources as part of my research will also help me to prove these different hypotheses of mine.
During my research of the topic of male dancers, I have found a variety of helpful information that strengthens my own research. Men should be dancing because it is a healthy activity. Other cultures do not stereotype their male dancers like North America. Male dancers should be celebrated and encouraged not put down. Not all male dancers are homosexual and they should not all be stereotyped this way. That stigma could be traumatic to a heterosexual male.
Why are men not allowed to dance without being looked down upon by at least one person in the United States? Prejudice of male dancers begins with everyone’s idea of male bodies and behaviors (Ramsay). Men are viewed as strong protectors and are “not supposed to be” involved in dance. Although, men who dance have to be amazingly strong. Many male dancers need to be able to lift their female partner flawlessly. Also, men who dance even look strong from an observer. They have large muscles just from dancing. Homosexuality strongly affects adolescent boys. If a boy is viewed as a homosexual and is truly heterosexual, this could cause harmful effects for the child (Dorais). The book that Michael Dorais and Simon Louis Lajeunesse wrote has a VERY meaningful title. The title of their book is called, Dead Boys Can’t Dance. This title itself explains how boys are affected by stereotypes.
In different cultures, male dancers have no stigma about being feminine (Fisher, Stray). Dance is undervalued. If we understood how social identities are formed through body movement, we could move away from stereotypical North American biases (Desmond). Men dancing in other cultures can be attractive to the opposite sex. In Jamaica, there was a study done revealing symmetry in men and women dancers. It showed that more symmetrical dancing was attractive (Brown). This shows that it is normal for both male and female Jamaicans to dance. It is also considered attractive if they dance more symmetrically (Brown). Also in Africa, it is normal for both men and women to dance. Dance is a significant part of Africa’s culture. Dance in Africa is not just a form of entertainment. There is meaning behind African dance that is powerful for both men and women (Harper). Unfortunately in North America, when thinking of dance as an “art form,” mostly white women are imagined.
Men should start to dance even if it is just for their health. There are a variety of benefits of dance dealing with health issues. One benefit is that dance is an alternate way to help treat serious diseases, such as cancer, instead of using medicine. A variety of therapies, including dance, need to work together to help better the problem. Dance/Movement therapy is important because it helps with the physical, emotional, cognitive and social well being of people. Physical activity increases endorphins in the body which are used as a state of well being. Total body movement used in dance enhances many functions of the body which is why it is believed to be a good therapy (Aktas). There are also a variety of stress management approaches dealing with dance. Dance helps with emotions, stress, physical or even mental repair (Hanna).
There are men that dance that are not considered homosexual by a wide range of people in the United States. Football players dance. They dance to help their form and also for rehabilitation after getting hurt. Doing ballet helps football players to improve flexibility and reflexes. In the 1970’s famous wide receiver, Lynn Swann, was known for taking ballet, tap and jazz to help his form. In 1985, Al Toon, Jets’ receiver said that he had also studied dance to help his skills in football. Randall Cunningham, in 1991, took ballet for rehab from his injuries. My last example is Akili Smith, the Bengals quarterback who took ballet in 1999. At first, these men were being noticed left and right by civilians who thought it was odd for men to dance, especially football players. After a while, this new hype became old and people did not seem to be as interested in football players dancing (Pollak). They knew that football players were just trying to help their form and become better players. If stereotypical manly football players are allowed to dance without the feminine stigma, why are men who do not play football stereotyped?
It is interesting that football players are not seen as feminine. They are trying to stay in shape for something they love to play. They understand that dance is a smart way to stay strong, in shape and flexible. In my research, I want to understand non dancing male views on male dancers.
As I was researching, I found a story about a sophomore boy dealing with dance. He stated that he did not want to do ballet because it is not something men do so, he took up a sport. He did end up dancing with a good girl friend for a talent show and after his friend, who is a male, told him that he looked very feminine. His good girl friend’s uncle asked him if he remained straight or not because he is such a good dancer (Stereotypes). In a different article, a male stated that male ballet dancers must want to be princess fairies (Yahoo! Answers). Where do men get the idea that males dancing must mean they are gay? I asked this question to a few men who have the idea that most male dancers are gay.
I researched 3 men from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Each of these men were 20 years old. None of these men were or are dancers. Also, none of them have male friends who are dancers. I know them and their views on male dancers. From my perspective, I saw that these men were judgmental towards other people and I knew they would have something to say about male dancers. I wanted to understand why they think the way they do. In order to understand their point of view on male dancers, I needed to interview or survey them.
I decided to use a questionnaire with my research. To begin, I showed them a random video of a male dancing. This video had no significance other than it was a male performing ballet. I then had them write a short story about this dancer. It could be anything the 3 men thought of to write down. It only had to be about a paragraph long. After, they had to answer open-ended and close-ended questions. After, they wrote their story, they had to answer the question of why they chose this type of story to write about. This story will help show their views of a male dancer. Next, they had to answer a close-ended question asking about if they thought male dancers are homosexual or not. If they answered yes, they had to explain their answer. Next, I wanted to find out if they thought it was okay for athletes to take dance on the side for training. Whether they answered yes or no, they had to explain their answer for that close ended question. Last, I asked them about why they believe men dance. I did not want to make the questionnaire too long for the participants. So, I only placed 2 close-ended questions and 4 open-ended questions on the questionnaire. The video and short essay is where I was able to find the participants main point of view.
I received a verbal response from all of my male participants saying they were going to participate in my research. I sent them a questionnaire through email to fill out. On this questionnaire, I had the website for them to watch the male dancer and respond in an essay to it. I also gave them a deadline as to when I need the questionnaire filled out and sent back to me. I decided to do it this way so; they would be comfortable in their own home. Since they had to write a short essay, this gave them a chance to think on their own without having me disturb them. Also, this gave them a chance to plan when they had time to do my questionnaire. I placed the time it should take them to complete my form so they would not feel like they had to spend a long time on it. They should only write the essay for about 5 minutes. After the essay, they should only spend about 4 to 5 minutes on the questionnaire. Lastly, the video is 1 minute and 57 seconds, which means the entire process should take between 10 to 12 minutes. The video I chose to show them is with Garrett Groat. He dances solo to jungle music. In this video, he moves around the entire stage and does a variety of jumps and leaps.
As stated at the beginning of the paper, women may also stereotype men. In my method section, I am only focusing on male perceptions. Through my personal experience, I believe men to be more critical of male dancers than women. I wanted to get their thoughts on paper so I could analyze them and find results about their thought.
Aktas, Gurbuz and Filiz Ogce. “Dance as a Therapy for Cancer Prevention.” Asia Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 6 (2005): 408-411. Dance for Cancer Prevention. Web. Feb. 17, 2010
Brown, William M. “Dance Reveals Symmetry Especially in Young Men.” Nature 438 (2005): 22-29. Web. 8 Feb. 2010.
Burt, Ramsay. The Male Dancer: Bodies, Spectacle, Sexuality. USA: Routledge, 2007. Web. 17 Feb. 2010
Desmond, Jane C. “Embodying Difference: Issues in Dance and Cultural Studies.” Cultural Critique (1993-1994): 33-63. University of Minnesota Press. Web. 8 Feb. 2010.
Dorais, Michel and Simon Louis Lajeunesse. Dead Boys Can’t Dance. Canada: McGill-Queens University Press, 2004. Print.
Fisher, Jennifer, and Anthony Stray. When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities Across Borders. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2009. Print.
Hanna, Judith. Dancing for Health: Conquering and Preventing Stress. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2006. Web. Feb. 17 2010
Hanna, Judith. “The Power of Dance: Health and Healing.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1 (2007) 323-331. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Web. Feb. 17, 2010
Harper, P. “Dance in a Changing Society.” African Arts 1 (1967): 10-13. Web. 8 Feb. 2010.
Pollak, Neal. “Big Men Stretching.” Slate. Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2005. Web. March 2010.
Risner, D. “Rehearsing Heterosexuality: Unspoken Truths in Dance Education.” Dance Research Journal 34 (2002): 63-78. University of Illinois Press. Web. 8 Feb. 2010.
Sheenamg. “Garrett Groat-Jungle Solo.” Youtube. 16 July 2008. Web. 22 March 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc1deri-tDE
Stereotypes are Often Overrated (Male Dancers). Directessays. 2002-2010. Web. 22 March 2010.
What’s Your Perception of Male Ballet Dancers? Yahoo! Answers. 2010. Web. 22 March 2010.