Vicki Harman - Speaker, 6 Apr 2011
British Sociological Association Annual Conference, LSE, London.
In Britain a resurgence of interest in Ballroom and Latin American dancing has taken place in recent years, as evidenced by the popularity of the TV series 'Strictly Come Dancing'. With considerable numbers of people spending a significant amount of their leisure time and financial resources taking part in Ballroom dancing, it is timely for sociologists to consider the social and cultural significance of this leisure activity. Ballroom and Latin dancing is often seen as a return to traditional heteronormative gender roles, with the man leading (setting the timing and deciding the figures to be danced) and the woman following (with particular responsibility to look attractive). Dress, make-up, leader/ follower expectations, body shape, size and movement are all pertinent considerations in Ballroom and Latin dancing. This paper draws on ethnographic research at a dance school in south-east England involving participant observation at dancing lessons, socials, training days and competitions, as well as interviews with male and female Ballroom and Latin dancing competitors. The analysis considers the extent to which the current popularity of Ballroom dancing can be seen as indicative of a desire to return to traditional gender roles.