Week 3: A Continuation
Welcome back to another week with this blog! This week, I’d like to discuss some more articles I’ve read as part of an ongoing literature review while IRB approval is still in process. One article in particular that stood out to me this week is “Sassy girls and hard hitting boys: dance competition culture and gender.”1 In this article, Schupp discusses many interesting insights into the nature of competition dance culture, one of the main ones being the implicit messages about gender roles that young dancers are exposed to through competition dance culture. For example, there seems to be an ideal or “normal” body type perceived by the dancers who were interviewed in this study– girls should have long, lean, and athletic bodies while boys should be strong and athletic.
Schupp also mentions how in competitive dance, dancers are primarily only concerned with how their body looks from the front, as the attention from the judges and the audience most often comes from this direction. To me, this note was quite interesting because something that I’ve noticed being able to watch dance routines on stage from both the audience perspective and from backstage is that routines often have very different feelings depending on which angle they are viewed from, and if there is this difference, the front view often looks more cohesive and intense (from what I have seen).
This idea isn’t specific to just dance competitions either. As another competitive activity that reveres both artistry and athleticism, figure skating has its fair share of similarities with what was mentioned in Schupp’s study, and I thought it would be interesting to discuss some of these as a former figure skater. Though there is no strict “front” view for a figure skating routine, the judges’ perspective is what matters most. Yuzuru Hanyu’s (two-time men’s figure skating Olympic champion) graduation thesis notes how some choreographers will place difficult jumps at an angle at which it is more difficult for the judges to get a clear view on the jump’s takeoff and landing, which can benefit the skater with more points than they deserve for that jump. (If you’re interested in learning more about this thesis, this video explains it better than I can for 1) non-Japanese speakers and 2) people who might not be completely familiar with figure skating terminology. The information is really fascinating!)
Prioritizing looks over function is something that influences both dance and figure skating as well, and the dangers of doing so in one of these aesthetic sports can be a warning for the others. One example of this involves Russian figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze’s coaching methods that is the reason behind her skaters’ astounding quadruple jumps and massive success. Tutberidze is known for her harsh coaching methods, which include keeping her skaters as light as possible so they can jump higher and rotate faster– coaching only prepubescent female skaters, not allowing her skaters to drink water, etc. Additionally, rather than perform jumps as they are meant to be with as minimal pre-rotation while taking off for the jump as possible, Tutberidze is known for teaching skaters to rotate before leaving the ice, which can look good to the judges and the audience because it is too fast to see, but in the long run causes severe back injuries to the skaters with this improper technique.2
Schupp’s examination of the implicit messages about gender roles that young competition dancers are exposed to can be seen in the figure skating world as well (a great example being shown in this article here). But to tie this long analysis back together, my point is that the culture in these competitive aesthetic sports has similarities, and although competitive dance and figure skating are quite different on a fundamental basis, paying attention to the dangers and warnings of both can help these athletes be more well-informed about what aspects of their socio-culture they should be more careful of.
- Schupp K. Sassy Girls And Hard Hitting Boys: Dance Competition Culture And Gender. In: Oliver W, Risner D, Ed. Dance And Gender : An Evidence-Based Approach. University Press Of Florida; 2017:76-96. Doi:10.2307/J.Ctvx1ht59.9.
- Abutaleb Y, Garcia-Roberts G, Giambalvo E. Her Figure Skaters Can Fly. But Do A Russian Coach’s Tactics Go Too Far? Washington Post. Published February 16, 2022. Https://Www.Washingtonpost.Com/Sports/Olympics/2022/02/14/Eteri-Tutberidze-Russian-Figure-Skating-Doping/
- Maurice EP. Straight Figure Skater Offers Sincere Apology After Saying It’s A ‘Homosexual-Dominated Sport.’ PinkNews. Published July 31, 2021. Https://Www.Thepinknews.Com/2021/07/31/Nathan-Chen-Figure-Skater-Apology/