Some of you have already taken classical social theory or even contemporary social theory, or cultural theory, and all of you have taken various other classes in sociology and/ or anthropology and have learnt about the various aspects and problems of society and cultural life. Here in The Sociology of Dance, you are being asked to draw upon your knowledge of social life and to come up with an interesting and creative idea for a research project. For many years I have worked on demonstrating how dance is a viable area of research and can be an interesting object of research for both sociology and anthropology. Now I want to see what you can come up with.
In you papers, I would like to see you questioning a theory or idea that deals with the social world today. For example, if you are interested in the social construction of sexuality and the body, you might want to look at the space that exotic dancing occupies in our social world today. You could look at its emergence and the moral issues that surround it. You could study its history and perhaps compare this kind of dancing to a music video. What is being generated in terms of sexuality and its meaning in both, and is there a clear line between the two forms? Are they both selling sex? Why is one form more socially acceptable than the other? You could analyze body movement, clothing, music choice…and even the venue. There is so much that can be analyzed here.
Also, pole dancing has become part of the gym culture. What are the social implications? And how might this new type of fitness craze, legitimate (or not) this dance practice. How has the transferring from the ‘strip joint’ to the gym change public perception? Or has it? Who practices this form of dance? And, why?
If you are interested in social dance forms such as Latin Dancing, you might want to try and understand the ballroom dance explosion that we are now witnessing. You can look at the meaning (racial politics, gender politics, sexual politics) of one form and analyze the social, political and cultural environment through which it emerged and ask how it fits into our world today. Look at the gender representation…i.e. the ‘machismo’ of the male dancer, for example, and the femininity of the female dancer and ask yourself where do these images fit in out contemporary world? What kinds of masculine and feminine images are being generated and where do they fit? With this kind of analysis you could situate it in a feminist theory that deals with issues surrounding the social construction of femininity. Or a theory that deals with masculinity and its implications. You can also look at the world of competitive ballroom.
You can look at a music video and question what popular image(s) are/ is being expressed? What can we learn about our social world though the music and dance moves? Look at the hybridization of forms and musical sounds and talk about cultural globalization.
If you are interested in Hip Hop you might want to look at its history and question the attitude that is being “commodified” by the global flow of this dance form. What does Hip Hop say? Or Express? Where did it come from and what does it mean that this form is found all over the world in fashion, music, style etc… What does it mean in terms of gender? Who does Hip Hop? Look at music videos…
You can look at other theatrical forms such as modern dance, contemporary dance, jazz dance, Broadway dancing, a Chorus Line, etc…and write about what kind of expression it embodies and what kind of cultural character it generates. Where did it come from and what does it express? Where does it fit in our social world today?