Dance With Me

Dance With Me: Ballroom Dancing and the Promise of Instant Intimacy

Julia A. Ericksen
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 294
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  • Book Info
    Dance With Me
    Book Description:

    Rumba music starts and a floor full of dancers alternate clinging to one another and turning away. Rumba is an erotic dance, and the mood is hot and heavy; the women bend and hyperextend their legs as they twist and turn around their partners. Amateur and professional ballroom dancers alike compete in a highly gendered display of intimacy, romance and sexual passion.In Dance With Me, Julia Ericksen, a competitive ballroom dancer herself, takes the reader onto the competition floor and into the lights and the glamour of a world of tanned bodies and glittering attire, exploring the allure of this hyper-competitive, difficult, and often expensive activity. In a vivid ethnography accompanied by beautiful photographs of all levels of dancers, from the world's top competitors to social dancers, Ericksen examines the ways emotional labor is used to create intimacy between professional partners and between professionals and their students, illustrating how dancers purchase intimacy. She shows that, while at first glance, ballroom presents a highly gendered face with men leading and women following, dancing also transgresses gender.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2285-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface: The Passion
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction to Photographing Emotion
    (pp. 1-5)
    Jonathan S. Marion

    WALKING IN THE door to DanceSport Academy in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, for the first time on July 28, 2010, the first person I see is dancer Jean Paulovich (figures 3.3 and 7.2), and although he does not recall my name, we instantly recognize each other based on a photo I took of him at his first professional competition, at the 2004 Yankee Classic DanceSport Championships in Boston, Massachusetts.¹ That we each knew who the other was more than six years later—and both recalled the exact pose and costume in that single photograph—illustrates the power of image in the world...

  6. Introduction: Entering the World of Ballroom
    (pp. 6-19)

    IT IS THE last night of the 2008 United States Dance Championships (USDC), and the most popular event is under way: the final of the Open to the World Professional Latin Championship. Six finalists dance the five dances that constitute every Latin competition: cha-cha, samba, rumba, paso doble, and jive.¹ As the first dance ends, the crowd favorites, Riccardo Cocchi and Yulia Zagoruchenko, begin whizzing around the floor doing promenade runs to the fast-paced samba music with its heavy drum beat and complicated syncopation. They flirt with each other; they flirt with the audience; they smile and wink as they...

  7. 1 The Purchase of Instant Intimacy
    (pp. 20-45)

    ALTHOUGH PHOEBE, A diminutive woman in her sixties, had studied ballroom dance for over twenty years, dance had never lost its glow. She explained, “I don’t have a social life. I only have a dance life. . . . I sacrifice everything for it; friendships, family, they come second.” Phoebe had always loved to dance, and as a teenager, she had persuaded her father to pay for ballet lessons, after having, as she put it, “taught it to myself really.” She resumed these lessons in adulthood, and at one point, the instructor began to teach the class something he called...

  8. 2 The Thrill of Performance and the Agony of Competition
    (pp. 46-70)

    INTHE DANCING YEARS, legendary dancer Bill Irvine tells a dramatic story.¹ He and his wife were up-and-coming dancers, having placed fifth at the 1961 British Championship at Blackpool. When they entered the competition the following year, the favorites were Peter Eggleton and Brenda Winslade,² a couple the Irvines had so far been unable to beat.

    At Blackpool, the atmosphere is always intense:

    It’s difficult to imagine the excitement that takes over the whole place. Ballroom dancing is an extremely enthralling occupation, taking up the entire life of those taking part and calling out extreme enthusiasm in those watching. ....

  9. 3 The Economics of Ballroom
    (pp. 71-97)

    MARK IS A successful pro/am teacher, taking students to about fourteen competitions a year. When I asked him how many students he typically took, he answered,

    Three to five or six at a time, when it comes to the local competitions . . . or as many people as I have space for. I’ll have twelve to fourteen at Ohio Star Ball, since that’s the pinnacle of our competitive calendar. Everybody wants to go there, because they know it’s the end-all, be-all. . . . I try to put myself in the position where I don’t have any overlapping in...

  10. 4 Feeling the Dance, Showing the Magic
    (pp. 98-124)

    THE DESIRE OF dance audiences to believe in the emotions portrayed by the dancers is underscored by the popular television showDancing with the Stars.This desire is especially strong when audiences do not dance, and each season audiences speculate about the possibility of romantic relationships between stars and professional dance partners, when they know both are single. For example, during the spring 2010 series, viewers were obsessed about whether a romance was developing between ESPN host Erin Andrews and dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy.¹ So intense was the speculation that a couple weeks aft er the show ended, there were over...

  11. 5 The Tan, the Hair, the Makeup: Embracing the Look
    (pp. 125-149)

    THE PROFESSIONAL BALLROOM competition at any major event is a sight to behold. The men wear tail suits with hair slicked straight back in the manner of Rudolph Valentino. Their hair must stay motionless for the entire event. They keep it shiny and glued to their heads with a wet gel blow dried with lots of hair spray. Although a dark tan is not as important as it is for Latin competition, men’s faces are tanned, often with a matt makeup which makes the skin appear translucent and without blemish. Tanned faces and bodies make dancers stand out better on...

  12. Color illustrations
    (pp. None)
  13. 6 Taking the Lead: The Male Dancer
    (pp. 150-174)

    JAMES, A HANDSOME and charming American-born dance instructor in his early forties, co-owns a studio in a southern state and is a regular fixture on the competition circuit. When I interviewed him at his studio, we were interrupted by students who told me how much they liked him and what a wonderful teacher he was.

    James’s journey to becoming a dancer was a long one. He “grew up in a little bit of a rough neighborhood” and had thought that he might become a police officer. He easily passed the exam, but they were going to place him in vice,...

  14. 7 Beyond the Glamour: The Female Dancer
    (pp. 175-201)

    LAURA HAD ALWAYS been a show-off. As a child, she produced shows using her brothers as props and remembered “forcing them into doing things,” such as dressing them up and doing their hair and makeup. She never had dance lessons, although all her friends did and she “wanted them desperately,” because her parents did not consider lessons useful to her future. In high school, Laura joined the theater and loved it, but this ended when she graduated and had to earn a living. Her first job was at a southern-food chain, where she quickly rose to manager. She hated the...

  15. 8 The Music Hasn’t Stopped: The Aging Dancer
    (pp. 202-220)

    ANEW YORK TIMESarticle entitled “Seeing Old Age as a Never-Ending Adventure” described a surge in extreme activities among the elderly, who increasingly view their later years as a time to explore new endeavors once viewed as exclusive to the young.¹ The story included a woman who went hiking in the South African wilderness at age ninety, and an eighty-nine-year-old man who strapped his feet to the top of a single-engine biplane and crossed the English Channel at 160 miles per hour. In reading the article, I recalled a dancer who was still competing at eighty-nine. Although she...

  16. 9 Connection Is Key
    (pp. 221-230)

    I AM WATCHING the pro/am dancing at the Manhatt an DanceSport Competition, a famously tough event. In addition to the high quality of the performances, participants are younger and more ethnically diverse than is typical at pro/am competitions. Ballroom is a passion typically indulged in by older students, especially in the south, although it is experiencing a growing interest among the young. The crowd at Manhatt an is mostly white, but many have accents that mark them as Russian speakers. In addition, there are a number of Latino and Filipino professionals and several from Haiti.¹ The students are also more...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 231-234)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 235-264)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-274)
  20. Index
    (pp. 275-278)
  21. About the Author
    (pp. 279-279)