Apart from it being a mode of expession of emotion and sentiment, dance can also serve as a platform for expression of gender, that marked identity that we think is unchangeable. From the day we are born, or even much earlier than that, our sex and gender our socially defined. What we (should) wear, how we (must) walk, the amount of space we occupy in our everyday life is largely defined by the role of gender in society. In the dance context such observations become quite evident from the posture our bodies take, our facial expressions, and the costumes we wear.
How can I dance my gender? Or how can dance assist me in exploring such stereotypical elements of the two biological sexes? What if I discover more than two? How does one choreograph sexuality? And how have many dance genres been shaped entirely through gender relations and inequalities?
In its history, dance as an arform has provided a platform of gender expression for many artists. Nowadays, we find dances such as Flamenco, Bharatanatyam, Contemporary, Odissi, Ballet, Modern, Hip Hop and Tap rewriting their history by exploring and unsettling the prefixed opinions about gender.
This was the main theme of a workshop I presented in April 2015 at PLAGROUND for the arts in Athens. While discussing about different dance topics I was trained in during Choreomundus, we decided to explore the idea of the dancer as a gendered subject. Although this issue is widely discussed in academia, it is not so much explored in dance practice itself, let alone in dance in Greece! So a few dancers and actors gathered together and we spent almost 3 hours dancing, talking and watching videos. We started with exploring stereotypical positions of men and women when standing, sitting, going to work, dancing…
Then we tried to transition from one to the other and focusing on the different 'in between' positions our bodies went through. We then identified gender in music and started to refering to masculinity and femininity instead of man and woman in order to better express this fluidity. After that we watched videos from a very large range of dances and dance cultures around the world and noticed how gender differences in every society are witnessed in their dances…
After briefly touching upon some leading theoretical notions of social construction of gender and taking it until the phenomenon of performativity of gender on stage and in everyday life, we went back on the dancefloor and started moving more freely in space, this time not with stereotypes in mind, but by accepting that whatever movement we do, although gendered, it belongs to our own personal identity and it does not conform to any fixed duality…
We had a great time and we are thinking of repeating it on a larger scale in the near future!
My first attempt to blend theoretical notions with practical, embodied experiences in a non-academic environment came true. I never in my life imagined myself talking about gendered dance, so I must thank specific people who have contributed importantly to my overall education in this direction: Emilyn Claid for the dance excecises, Avanthi Meduri for the theories and Sara Azzarelli for first hand ethnographic material on the subject. Oh, and Nana for teaching me Bamaya (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slvUwukMJL4) !
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in all posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the association or the MA program.