Today I had the interesting and rare opportunity to take an hour social dance lesson at a neighborhood studio,Cinema Ballroom in Saint Paul. A couple of weeks ago, my professor for my WGSS Senior Seminar revealed that she has been taking dance classes, and that a Macalester professor invited her and our class to join his Behavioral Neuroscience class in a dance lesson; his students were discussing the neuroscience of dance. We enthusiastically RSVPed YES, thinking it would be a nice break from heavy theory and talking about gender - wow, were we wrong.
When we got to the lesson, the instructor asked ladies to step to one side of the room, and for leaders to step to the other. This really shocked me; while I anticipated and knew that there were clear cut gender binaries in ballroom dance (men lead and women follow - traditionally), I didn't expect there to be such a bold binary as "ladies/leaders." Because of the numbers, I was lucky enough to be both a lady and a leader for the day (much to my delight, seeing as I got the honor of waltzing with my wise, adorable, and badass-feminist professor).
Later in the lesson, the instructor was trying to convey the role of the leader when he said that we should learn to "forcibly move" our ladies. He went on about how even if she doesn't want it, as the leader we know what is best for her, and that it will be in her best interest...! Again, it was comical how blatant the gender politics were becoming - I looked over and even my professor was giggling. His language so paralleled the language of male dominance and violence (which, I KNOW, is NOT funny) that it felt like a joke or a set-up for our class' benefit and entertainment.
Overall, the dance lesson was fun, awkward, and interesting - I guess I was just surprised that what I expected to find as subtle undertones were overtly a part of the dialogue. When I got home, I started looking into ballroom dance, and found some really awesome contemporary queerings of the classically heteronormative culture. I thought I would share them with everyone here.
and a book about the issue.