By R. Burt
During this tough and vigorous ebook, Burt examines the illustration of masculinity in 20th century dance. The Male Dancer has confirmed to be crucial studying for an individual drawn to dance and the cultural development of gender.
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Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues that, in men’s relationships with other men in contemporary Western society, emotional and sexual expression is necessarily suppressed in the interests of maintaining male power. In a broader historical and anthropological perspective, she argues, this sort of male bonding is atypical: a similar suppression does not occur in female bonding in modern Western society, nor did it exist, for example, for Greek men at the time of Socrates. In the latter examples, there is a continuum between social, political, and sexual expression.
By giving a name to the way social restrictions function that maintain certain norms of masculine behaviour, it is possible to make visible aspects of male experience that are otherwise hidden. It, then, also becomes possible to discuss the way male–male social relations have been represented in theatre dance in terms of homophobia. My argument is that it is these social restrictions that, since the mid-nineteenth century, have caused the display of male dancing to become a source of anxiety. 23 THE MAL E DANCER Male appearance signiﬁes power and success: as John Berger has put it, a man’s appearance tells you what he can do to you or for you.
One response to anxiety about the limits and boundaries of masculine identities was to identify an external cause for this contemporary crisis rather than acknowledging any internal contradictions from which it might derive. As Michael S. Kimmel has shown, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of widespread debate about fears that this ‘super-civilisation’ was causing modern European men to lose touch with their ‘essential’, ‘natural’ masculinity (1987). One participant in this debate was Lord Baden-Powell.