Books/DVDs: Gender Studies

Posted on January 9, 2010 by

Equipoise: The Life and Work of Alfredo Corvino
By Dawn Lille
Dance and Movement Press

In a nutshell: The teaching wisdom of Alfredo Corvino.

Alfredo Corvino sprinkled his teaching with a special brand of whimsy and gentle humor. But behind the humor was his drive to instill both the technical and aesthetic understanding for artistry. Dawn Lille captures these qualities, and Corvino’s pervasive humanity, in her biography of this master ballet teacher. In the book’s forward, Dominique Mercy, of Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, thanks Corvino for helping her understand the human body’s mechanics, musicality and dynamics of movement, but laments she has one thing yet to learn from him: “how to travel with such a small suitcase, no matter where and for how long!” This attribute characterizes Lille’s depiction of Corvino as a man whose only “baggage” in the classroom was his wisdom, knowledge and the joy he took in teaching dance. Lille’s reverence for Corvino guides her meticulous documentation of his colorful life and career through the first eight chapters, with a detailed account of the influences that helped shape his unique integration of the Cecchetti technique. Chapters 9 through 11 provide readers with the specifics of his teaching methodology, from the barre through center work. The book’s engaging photographs illuminate his personality and artistry, and illustrations further explain his technical theories. While more vivid storytelling would have added to this book, what emerges is a loving portrait and insightful representation of this special man’s gift to the dance world. —Lynn Colburn Shapiro

Stigma and Perseverance in the Lives of Boys Who Dance: An Empirical Study of Male Identities in Western Theatrical Dance Training
By Doug Risner
The Edwin Mellen Press

In a nutshell: An investigation of male pre-professional dance training and education in the United States.

In his “wake-up” call to dance educators, Doug Risner sheds light on the age-old mystery of what attracts (and keeps) males in dance. Risner incorporates his own story, along with personal narratives from 75 danseurs to help readers better understand what is really occurring in the minds of young boys in dance classes nationwide. Most importantly, he challenges dance educators to develop more realistic strategies for recruiting male students, rather than relying on stereotypical “masculine” tactics, and to improve dance-training conditions for boy dancers. The book’s six heavily researched chapters discuss issues such as homosexuality, including males’ sensitivity to gendered criticism and why the balance between heterosexuals and homosexuals in dance is disproportionate; the importance of a strong support system for male dancers; and the Western notion that concert dance is a female activity. Although its tone is academic, this book is an essential resource for those with a connection to pre-professional male dancers. —Rachel Zar

When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities Across Borders
Edited by Jennifer Fisher and Anthony Shay
Oxford University Press

In a nutshell: Scholarly selections that address men’s obstacles and challenges as dance artists.

This anthology evolved out of a panel on dance and masculinity presented at the annual Congress on Research in Dance meeting in 2006. The diverse essays unfold an analytical debate of why men dance. Leading and up-and-coming dance scholars revisit and overturn historical theories, common stereotypes and prejudices often associated with gender in dance, relating to men’s obstacles and challenges as dance artists. Compiled by dance professors Jennifer Fisher and Anthony Shay, the study proposes ways of widening the definition of gender performance, especially rethinking the “making it macho” strategy. While mainly focusing on concert dance, as well as global popular and classical dance forms, the book does briefly explore social and spectacle dance as they relate to masculinity. The essays are enlivened by stories of male dancers from established artists, like Donald McKayle, to those lesser known. Through these personal accounts, teachers will learn ways to help male students rise above the challenges, fears, insecurities and ridicule men face as dancers.   —Courtney Rae Allen

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