Challenging conceptions of gender: UK dance teachers’ perceptions of boys and girls in the ballet studio

  • Helen Clegg, Helen Owton, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson
  • Research in Dance Education, October 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/14647893.2017.1391194

Dance teachers' perceptions of boys and girls in their dance classes

Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

What is it about?

Dance, particularly ballet, is often considered a feminised activity and gender traditionally tends to be drawn along binary lines. Traditional notions of idealised gendered bodies in dance are often valorised. Psychologically, girls are expected to be passive, by unquestioningly accepting the instructions of the dance teacher, whereas boys are encouraged to be challenging, energetic and daring. Dance educators have an important role in influencing such attitudes but to date have been under-researched. To understand their perceptions of boys and girls in the dance studio, 10 female dance teachers from across the UK participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using thematic analysis, from which two key themes emerged: ‘Performing Masculinity’ and ‘Boys’ Challenges to Traditional Dance Pedagaogy’. Within the ballet studio, teachers encouraged the performance of masculinity in boys and femininity in girls. However, there was some reflection by the teachers on such traditional conceptualisations of gendered physicality. Boys were perceived to challenge the traditional, authoritarian pedagogy by not conforming to behavioral expectations of docility. Whilst teachers were found to respond by changing their pedagogy, this paper calls for the use of a model of pedagogy that is gender neutral, fosters creativity and empowers all genders.

Why is it important?

Dance educators have an important role in influencing such attitudes but to date have been under-researched. This research investigated and sought to understand their perceptions of boys and girls in the dance studio. Findings revealed that within the ballet studio, teachers encouraged the performance of masculinity in boys and femininity in girls. However, there was some reflection by the teachers on such traditional conceptualisations of gendered physicality. Boys were perceived to challenge the traditional, authoritarian pedagogy by not conforming to behavioral expectations of docility. Whilst teachers were found to respond by changing their pedagogy, this research is important in supporting the need for a model of dance pedagogy that is gender neutral, fosters creativity and empowers all genders.

Read Publication

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14647893.2017.1391194

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson