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Becoming Beautiful

Becoming Beautiful: Ballroom Dance in the American Heartland

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Becoming Beautiful
    Book Description:

    In Becoming Beautiful , Joanna Bosse explores the transformations undergone by the residents of a Midwestern town when they step out on the dance floor for the very first time. Bosse uses sensitive fieldwork as well as her own immersion in ballroom culture to lead readers into a community that springs up around ballroom dance. The result is a portrait of the real people who connect with others, change themselves, and join a world that foxtrots to its own rules, conventions, and rewards. Bosse's eye for revealing, humorous detail adds warmth and depth to discussions around critical perspectives on the experiences the dance hall provides, the nature of partnership and connection, and the notion of how dancing allows anyone to become beautiful.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09698-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: BECOMING BEAUTIFUL
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 2006 executives of the successful reality television showDancing with the Starscaused a stir when they announced that Jerry Springer would perform in season 3. The oft-maligned host of a daytime television talk show renowned for its brawls and broken hearts cut an unsympathetic figure for fans of the show. As entertainment reporter Maria Caccia (2006) wrote in an article during that season, “I had never watchedDancing with the Starsuntil my sisters got me hooked, but when I heard that one of this season’s contestants was to be Jerry Springer, I became nauseous. I mean, did...

  5. Interlude
    (pp. 17-20)

    By 8:00 P.M. the dancers have filled the lobby. They are lining up to pay the $6 cover charge to Genevieve, pick up their dance card, and head for the floor. The dance card serves as a program, listing the order of the genres in groups of two, each grouping called a set, as well as announcements about upcoming events. As dancers hang their coats and change into their dance shoes—soft, supple leather with suede bottoms—they greet each other warmly and tell stories of their week. Sylvia, a real estate agent with two adult children, arrives with her...

  6. 1 The Classification of Style
    (pp. 21-44)

    Pete, a retired, single dancer in his seventies and a regular attendee at the Regent’s Friday night dances, leaned in close during our swing at a Friday night dance, and in a playful, conspiratorial tone said, “You know, I really think this is a foxtrot, but they get mad at me when I don’t do what I’m supposed to,” nodding to the deejay booth. Continuing the conspiratorial gag, I looked over my shoulder before leaning in to whisper, “I’m game. Let’s do it.” He smiled broadly, and we alternated between his own idiosyncratic versions of foxtrot and swing for the...

    (pp. 45-66)

    Driving south out of Champaign, Illinois, one might completely fail to notice the low-lying residential landscape of the neighboring village of Savoy. From Savoy’s small commercial district on Route 45— which includes a veterinary clinic, a Honda dealership, a Dairy Queen, a multiplex, and a Schnuck’s grocery store—the 1970s residential neighborhoods that begin one block west are barely perceptible. Even less remarkable is the single-story, brick rectangle that lies between the dentist’s office and a new funeral home: the Regent Ballroom and Banquet Center. With the building’s cryptic storefront sign that announces simply “Regent” and its covered windows, only...

  8. Interlude
    (pp. 67-74)

    A quiet rumba gives way to the cheerful refrain of a quickstep, and I see Dean making his way toward me for the dance I promised him earlier in the evening. Dean is a single, white, thirty-something astrophysicist—literally, a rocket scientist—and a wonderful smooth dancer. After a brief moment to set up, we’re off for what seems like the sprint of ballroom dance. The fast pace of the dance causes beginners to panic a bit, and they rush the steps. For this reason, David schedules two in a set with the intention that couples will take turns, either...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 3 Bringing Coherence to the Sensuous Life: CONNECTION AND PARTNERSHIP AMONG SOCIAL DANCERS
    (pp. 75-96)

    Before the start of a Tuesday night practice dance, I was sitting with Dan and Mai, a retired academic couple of Japanese descent. The couple has been dancing for decades and has become a fixture on the dance floor. In their notable affection for one another, their playful, energetic synchrony, and their deep compatibility on and off the floor, they more aptly personify the American ideal of the romantic dancing couple even better than Fred and Ginger. Everyone knows them, and most admire their good fortune to each have found a marriage partner with whom they love to dance. “We...

  11. 4 Performing Race, Remaking Whiteness
    (pp. 97-120)

    I was milling about the lobby of the Regent Ballroom and Banquet Center in Savoy, Illinois, chatting with a group of ballroom dancers who were preparing for their first salsa formation dance team rehearsal. One dancer in particular, Ethan, was very eager to get started. He was pacing the floor, snapping his fingers nervously, and practicing the basic salsa moves he already knew, accompanied by music he hummed to himself. Among salsa dancers Ethan was a notoriously mediocre dancer who received unenthusiastic responses to his invitations to salsa dance. He was, however, a proficient ballroom dancer, and I asked him...

  12. Interlude
    (pp. 121-124)

    Two tables are decorated with streamers and balloons in celebration of birthdays, and during the break individuals begin lighting candles and serving cake. Those birthday and anniversary celebrants claim their complimentary bottle of champagne, and the hall is filled with toasts, laughter, and quiet renditions of “Happy Birthday to You.” I stop by Tony and Sarah’s table to say hello and wish Tony a happy birthday. The couple began dancing eighteen months ago in preparation for their daughter’s wedding, and they have enjoyed dancing ever since. They are one of the many “empty-nester” couples who arrive at the Regent hoping...

  13. 5 Joy, Flow, and Personal Transformation
    (pp. 125-134)

    Jane, the part-time Regent instructor, is a white, middle-aged mother of three boys. She is in excellent shape, her petite and athletic build a testament to the years she has spent as a competitive race walker and ballroom dance instructor. She and her husband, Mark, started dancing in 1996, about the same time I started this project, and I have followed them through the trajectory from beginners to advanced dancers and local teachers. When I asked her about those early days, about what brought her back to the ballroom week after week, she said: “The thing I enjoyed most about...

  14. Interlude
    (pp. 135-138)

    Many folks have standing partners for the last waltz of the evening, whether it be a spouse, a friend, or a competition partner. I have no arrangement and so take my chances week to week. Leo’s standing partner is not here tonight, so he raises his brow, tilts his head toward the floor while holding out his hand, and we’re heading together for the final waltz of the night. I walk into his arms without hesitation, feeling his torso with my own before setting up our frame for the waltz. Leo is one of my favorite partners, and I am...

  15. Appendix: BALLROOM CANON
    (pp. 139-148)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 149-160)
    (pp. 161-168)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 169-174)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-180)