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Dancing mosaics : influences on the body images of elite adolescent female dancers

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Title: Dancing mosaics : influences on the body images of elite adolescent female dancers
Author: Woekel, Erica Dawn
Degree: Master of Arts - MA
Program: Human Kinetics
Copyright Date: 2005
Issue Date: 2009-12-16
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Abstract: This research examines how elite adolescent female dancers visualize and scrutinize their bodies and construct their ideal body type from the basis of the thin ideal in dance culture. Competitive and pre-professional dancers were studied to explore the role body image, body satisfaction and dance culture plays in their desire for thinness. Good body image and body satisfaction in female dancers is lowered during adolescence as their bodies change through puberty and they strive toward the thin ideal (Rhea, 1998). The dance ideal, although similar to the cultural ideal, also emphasizes muscle length, long limbs and few body curves whereas the cultural ideal strives for shapely curves and prominent breasts. As dancers train in classes for performances, they are constantly surrounded by mirrors and this can lead to a heightened desire for thinness and constant self-scrutiny (Benn and Walters, 2001). Dancers use their bodies as a performance tool, therefore they cater their bodies to the audiences that observe them and these practices are highly objectified, externally validated and panoptic. This study combines three methodologies: i) Participant observation of elite dance classes, ii) Group interviews and iii) Demographics questionnaire. These methodologies are used to capture the actions of the dancers in class, their perceptions of their bodies in relation to themselves, other dancers and their socio-demographic backgrounds. Previous research has focused on eating disorders and dance: however, negative body image is a precursor to this lifethreatening illness and better understanding body image in dancers would allow for greater positive intervention. Although the literature on body image is large, there are few studies using qualitative methodology to understand a dancer's point of view. These methodologies along with the researcher's insider status allow for a more complete understanding of how young aspiring dancers perceive their bodies. The results of this study focus on the three main themes. The first theme looks at the ideals these dancers have in regards to body shape, musculature, and diet as these dancers continue to strive for perfection. The second theme examines the connections and dreams these dancers have in regards to professional dance. The third theme looks at the two distinct cultures these dancers are a part of and the influences both dance and consumer culture have on them. Dancers at the elite adolescent level focus on appearance and functionality of their bodies for the dance world while also scrutinizing their bodies and diets. Although they have a strong subjective self-esteem, their bodies are also objectified within the dance and cultural worlds of which they are a part. Since dance is not result oriented, it is difficult to understand the focus dancers have for an idealized performance body. Although the dancers scrutinized and deconstructed their bodies, their positive outlook was influenced by the standards of contemporary dance, role models, health education classes and training regimes. The study found that elite adolescent female dancers are continually striving for bodily perfection while remaining focused on their physical and mental wellbeing. As they negotiate these conditions, the complexities and idiosyncrasies of their own ideals reveal a mosaic of beliefs and influences in regards to dance and body image.
Affiliation: Education, Faculty of
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/16788
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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