Memory, identity and a desire to dance

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The author’s contribution is an autobiographical account that traces her relationship with her gender identity and dance training. She converses with feminist theoreticians as they provoke her to consider her relationship with dance and her dancing self. Here, theory takes the position of a wandering companion, facilitating a critique of the self, clarifying perception through a feminist lens, and containing reminiscence within a structure that re-configures the personal as political. This autoethnography is a methodological response to the context of gender construction and dance, foregrounding a more fluid relationship with theory than an argument for specific positions. The phenomenological influence is a response to the particularity of self, perception and memory. The foot here is a foot that alights, ventures out and finds its hold in feminist ground.

This article uses the different sections of the pointe shoe of the classical ballet dancer as its structuring device. The article is autobiographic and draws on memories of how both dance and gender identity were constructed and practised by the author through the regulatory disciplines and rituals of dance classes, as well as the desire to conform and to escape from the materiality of her body. From early memories of music and language that combined to produce certain qualities of movement and states of awareness, the line of thought proceeds to later struggles with body shape, image, identity and possible demeanours available to the young adult.

The article considers the foot, both its encasement in the hardened silk of the pointe shoe, and the bare foot's exposure and contact with the ground of contemporary dance practice. This experiential tale will draw on feminist theory through the lens of a personal conversation between theory and lived experience. The author considers how desiring transcendence from biology and over determined social roles of femininity and appropriate behaviour became a feature of the dancing woman's psychic landscape and remain as negotiable and contested territory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-127
Number of pages7
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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