Constellation of the Dance: an Ethnographic Study of Dancers

ABSTRACT - This ethnographic study took place over several decades of increasing involvement with classical dance, especially classical ballet, modern, and jazz. This participation came mostly as a parent and observer, rather than a participant. Results are based on field notes, pictures, and other material gathered over a number of years, as well as introspection and netnographic material from a ballet bulletin board’s archives. Perspectives gained from these dancers voice the conflicting modalities through which the dancer must navigate in her efforts to create self and achieve virtuosity. Using a religious metaphor, the paper also traces the transformation of consumption goods from the profane into the sacred.


Angela Hausman (2003) ,"Constellation of the Dance: an Ethnographic Study of Dancers", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Darach Turley and Stephen Brown, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 181-186.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2003      Pages 181-186


Angela Hausman, The University of TexasBPan American, USA


This ethnographic study took place over several decades of increasing involvement with classical dance, especially classical ballet, modern, and jazz. This participation came mostly as a parent and observer, rather than a participant. Results are based on field notes, pictures, and other material gathered over a number of years, as well as introspection and netnographic material from a ballet bulletin board’s archives. Perspectives gained from these dancers voice the conflicting modalities through which the dancer must navigate in her efforts to create self and achieve virtuosity. Using a religious metaphor, the paper also traces the transformation of consumption goods from the profane into the sacred.


The meanings and practices constructed by classical dancers inform values and structure consumer actions of not only this subculture, but a broader subculture of adolescents and even adults to wish to identify with the grace, beauty, and power embodied by dancers (McCracken 1996; Tamisari, 2000). This paper is designed to provide a socially constructed view of the world of dancers through the voices of the dancers, their parents, and teachers. The perspectives are those experienced through the subculture enacted by the dancers in several medium-sized southern cities in the U.S. and, through bulletin board postings, adolescent dancers worldwide. The world that emerges is a blending of issues specific to the dance world and issues affecting children approaching adolescence in postmodern societies. Moreover, many of the issues explored transcend the dance subculture, facilitating understanding of issues facing young athletes, musicians, and other performers.

The study evolved from a personal involvement in classical dance, primarily classical ballet, modern, and jazz, that extended over several decades of increasing involvement. The project began through introspection of that experience, which was eventually supplemented through extensive field notes, informal interviews, and member checks. An important contribution of this technique was the complete immersion and acceptance within the community, a feature only acquired over time in most ethnographic studies. Therefore, cultural entree and establishment of trust and rapport with informants pre-dated formal data collection, which lead to a great deal of openness among informants. One of the benefits of this technique was that much of the data collected was longitudinal and continuous, rather then episodic, as are other types of ethnographic data in marketing. Similarly, while filtered through culturally derived notions of discourse as with all communication, conversation evolved in a more naturalistic fashion. Extensive observations over time aided analysis by supplementing those expressed perspectives of action against perspectives in action (Snow and Anderson, 1987; Arnould and Wallendorf, 1994). In this case, observations were literally "backstage", allowing access to observation of private behaviors (Wallendorf and Belk, 1989).

While dancers often "fly under the radar" of most forms of media, advertisers have begun to identify their products with images drawn from them, especially the ephemeral beauty and grace of ballet dancers. The increasing use of dance symbols in commercial advertising suggests these firms recognize that, not only do dancers represent a large number of consumers, an even larger number of consumers are drawn to the image of dancers and seek to identify with this image through their consumption decisions. Consider, for instance, the recent television advertisement for Swifter Cloths showing a room full of ballet dancers using their pointe shoes to move the dusting cloths around. The fashion world, in its never-ending search for the next fashion trend, has developed lines of clothing and shoes patterned after those utilized by dancers. Some of these designs were featured in the December issue of Glamour Magazine, 2001. The Limited, Too also featured dance-inspired clothing and models prominently in its Spring, 2002 flyer. These popularized notions of dance serve a culture obsessed with glamour (Hagood, 2000).

Yet, when dancers express their feelings toward Madison Avenue’s commercialization of their image to promote consumption, the emotions are strong and decidedly negative. They accuse advertisers of being inaccurate and offensive. Dancers complain that these advertisements perpetuate the sexist and anti-intellectual values of our popular culture and marginalize dancers by implying that ballet is for sissies, ballet is for snobs, and real people don’t like ballet (Hagood 2000; Hanna 1983). Consider the following, a posting to the ballet website by a young dancer in England, which underscores the disjoint between reality and media perpetuated notions of reality.

As for the commercials, people in advertising do not have hearts r brains; they are only interested in money. But anyone who believes what they are told by a commercial is not worth thinking about either, so hey; just ignore the lot of them.

Dancers are among the 30 to 50 million unpaid performers in the U.S. who entertain us with their grace, beauty, and talent every year (Szuhaj 2001). She calls this the volunteer sector of the arts and it is comprised of artists who perform with companies whose meager expenses are underwritten by ticket sales, local advertising, parental contributions, and dwindling governmental support for the arts.

Ballet has been called the dance of kings because King Louis XIV was a ballet dancer. Unfortunately, it now suffers from a poor public image. Boys usually discover dance much later than girls, some not until comfortable enough with their own sexuality to ignore the ridicule society heaps on effeminate men (Hanna, 1988). For most boys, the path of least resistance is through sports or, if they need creative outlet, music. Ballet was once even considered inappropriate for proper young ladies, until Jackie Kennedy decreed it respectable (Hanna, 1988). Since then, the number of young dancers has grown substantially (Szuhaj, 2001). This growth, along with concomitant increases in participation for other forms of performance art, may account for a steady increase in the American audiences for classical performances (Weiss, Holbrook and Habich, 2001). Observations made in Europe suggest audiences there have long appreciated the classical performing arts.

Considered a high art, there is the pervasive notion that "real men don’t like ballet". In fact, as with all the high arts, fans are "mythologized as snooty, wealthy elitists" (Weiss, Holbrook and Habich, 2001; pg. 40). Their efforts are also trivialized by a society consumed with images of athletes. For instance, in the middle of a dress rehearsal held recently for the local ballet company, incredulity was obvious when George (whose daughter was rehearsing for her first company performance) announced that ballet was "just like football" due to the amount of training and effort that went into the performance. This feeling corresponds with prevailing notions that do not condone anything other than immediate and complete success (Hagood, 2000). A dance instructor, who posts to the ballet board, invites members of the community to observe class; thereby gaining an appreciation for the dancers. She writes:

Most people, after seeing a ballet class for the first time say, "I never realized that you took class and you worked that hard!" Now, to us, that’s like DUH! We just rehearse for a show automatically knowing how to do fouette turns and fantastic grand jetes and it just comes to us. People don’t realize that we actually work and practice like a football team or basketball team. To not realize that is like thinking that Michael Jordan just went out and said "I want to be in the NBABI think I’ll just go try out" and all of a sudden he could do slam dunks and whatever.

There is a more practical reason for the association between ballet and kingsBthe expense. Everything associated with dance is expensive and with volunteer companies most of the expenses are covered by the dancers’ family. Take shoes, for instance. A serious dancer goes through a pair of pointe shoes (at a cost of $60-$70) every four to six weeks and most dancers have at least three pairs of shoes at all times. Add in the costs of classes, costumes, hair design, make-up, performance fees, etc. and the costs are substantial. This observation supports Belk and Costa’s (1998) contention that serious leisure activities become not only the focus of thoughts and energies, but expenditures as well.

In dance, we transform the profane into the sacred and become the servants to these consumption products like alter boys carefully polishing and storing religious articles. If dance is a religion, costumes are its vestments. Costumes are carefully pressed and stored in special garment bags to protect them backstage, blankets are laid out for dancers to sit on while awaiting their entrance (lest the costume become sullied), and special sacks are placed over dancers heads to protect the costume from make-up during changes. Costumes are carefully removed from backstage after a rehearsal or performance, taken home for pressing, and returned to the performance hall for the next performance, rather than being left in the dressing room where they might be damaged. Old costumes are never discarded. Janet recently had her daughter’s picture taken for inclusion in the Nutcracker program wearing the handmade party dress made for the Nutcracker party scene and outgrown years before. Costumes purchased by dancers for a performance are rarely worn again and almost never shared with later dancers requiring the same costume. Ballet shoes command similar reverence, although they are often discarded due to their poor condition (and smell) when no longer serviceable. Other dancers, as noted by Belk (2001), save bags full of shoes because of the work they represent.


Data collection involved multiple sources, venue, and types of data collected over a decade, although formal data collection involved a year of immersion in the culture as a participant (Wallendorf and Belk, 1989). During this time, other participants were informed of my status as a researcher, but over time appeared to forget this status and focus on my participation as a parent. Such prolonged and extensive engagement facilitates a more contextualized understanding of the culture under investigation (Hill and Stamely, 1990; Lincoln and Guba, 1984). Field notes, photographs, video, and interviews were collected from several dance studios in a southern U.S. city and compared with photographs, video, and introspections of experiences with studios and dancers in several other cities. Informants were selected across various ages and genders, involving students whose involvement in dance was superficial and those whose involvement was extensive. Comparisons across these data sources both increased the range of observed behaviors and aided in interpretation through disjoints between different types of data and different sites (Arnould and Wallendorf, 1994).

Conversations with informants were guided by the participants, covering a variety of topics of concern within their community, as recommended by Thompson and Haytko (1997). Many of the conversations occurred spontaneously while involved in joint projects to prepare for performances, during rehearsals, or while waiting for events. According to Thompson (1997), stories, such as those recounted by informants, are a primary means for discovering the culturally constructed meanings underlying individual consumption choices. Interpreting the data involved translating the lived experiences of the writer with a contextualized interpretation of these utterances, since there was an objective order to the data (Hodder 1994).

One problem inherent in conducting this research was that adolescent girls are not particularly comfortable talking about intimate feelings with any adult. Some of the issues are wrapped in social norms, which might lead to social desirability bias. This was especially true in gathering information about diet and body image. Thus, much of the data came from participant observations, especially of background events, and storytelling; parents’ stories about their daughters and dancers’ stories about other dancers. Also, to overcome this limitation and provide within-method triangulation, netnography was used, as recommended by Kozinets (2002). Netnography was implemented through access to the archives of a ballet Internet bulletin board. To protect the privacy of individuals posting to the board the site is confidential and the names are fictitious (Kozinets, 2002). Since choices to download postings from within specific topic areas (threads) affects achievement of the research objective, choice was guided by emerging interpretations of the terrestrial data, as well as those from the virtual community (Kozinets, 2002). Most of the data came from archives of posting made between 2000 and 2002 by dancers between 13 and 18 years of age. Supplementing this were archives from posting made during the same time by dancers’ parents and a special section reserved for male dancers, who were primarily adults. This process resulted in over 300 single-spaced pages of data. Complimenting the choice made in the terrestrial context, members of the bulletin board community were not informed of my presence and I did not interact or post questions directly onto the board. This choice was guided by my desire to capture the thoughts and emotions of the posters, rather than to generate or channel their thoughts. To mitigate ethical considerations associated with this methodology, the website address was omitted, as are the screen names used by individuals.

Analysis proceeded through a series of part-to-whole iterations; first comparing within the text followed by comparisons across data to identify patterns and differences across utterances (Thompson 1997). The interpretive process was basically hermeneutic, involving iterative analysis to develop a holistic understanding of the data. Analysis within the context of a hermeneutic circle requires immersion in background research on the context and cultural conditions within the domain (Thompson 1997). The next section provides this background to the reader, based on analysis of the data and extant literature.

Cultural conditions

Most serious dancers begin classical ballet training at about three years old, along with hordes of other little pink-clad youngsters. Although some dancers begin later, as older children or adolescents, few of these will become serious dancers. Meanwhile, they get to dress in cute costumes for about an hour a week and it is fun. The local dance academy even has them dance with their dolls at this age. They are the hit of the recital, even though they are all doing their own unique version of the dance, possibly involving tears. Afterwards, family and friends bring them candy and flowers to celebrate their performance.

In the normal progression, dancers will advance to increasing difficulty as their skills and bodies mature. Some girls may continue to dance, while others drift in and out of dance over the years. For a few, the lure of dance becomes as seductive as a siren’s call, often while still in pre-school. For instance, while dining with 10-12 dancers and their parents recently, two of the 4-year-olds began spontaneously dancing a part they had seen their older sisters perform earlier in the evening. These early signs of socialization into the culture of dance forebode later obsession. From the legions of little pink-clad three year olds, only a handful of dancers remain; the rest having succumbed to interests in sports, boys, school, or social activities. By adolescence, there are three distinct groups: 1) serious dancers; 2) wannabes; and 3) social dancers.

Serious dancers want to be professional dancers, as demonstrated by a recent web poll which showed 37% wanted to dance in music videos, 28% hoped to sign contracts with professional dance companies, 20% wanted to dance on Broadway, and 15% wanted to teach dance as a career (Dance Spirit Magazine, 2001). To reach their goals, they take many hours of classes each week and work in rehearsals on the weekends for months before a performance. Some of the girls will even attend special dance schools where they take a few hours of academics and many hours of dance every day. Many studios have separate classes for the serious dancers who make up their performing company. Of course, summer workshops with prestigious ballet companies, such as the Joffrey, New York City Ballet, and Houston Ballet, are de rigueur for serious dancers. The following posting to the ballet board by a girl in Sacramento suggests how being a dancer makes one different from everyone else.

Ever since I decided that I wanted to become a professional dancer, I felt different from my non-dancer friends. Dance was the most important thing in my life, while they were most concerned with boys and parties. I sacrificed a good deal of my social life for dance. The only time that I feel like I’m really able to be myself is when I am dancing. I still think dance is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Wannabes are similar to serious dancers, but, unfortunately, they lack the skill or body attributes (i.e. well-arched foot, slender build, long neck) necessary to be a dancer. It is easy to detect the wannabes because the teacher often ignores them in class and other dancers sometimes dance right over them. Social dancers are those who come to class to make their mothers happy, to socialize with their friends, or because they are the sibling of a serious dancer.

Ballet, whose movements are considered the unifying elements of all dance, is normally mastered before less restrictive forms of dance. Classical ballet involves very controlled and stylized body movements, normally performed on pointe to classical music. Themes for classical ballet often come from fairy tales or classic literature. Modern ballet, or simply modern, involves more natural body movements and often performed shoeless. Modern ballet themes primarily deal with topics of postmodern reality, especially issues of social injustice and equality. Rather than hide the body under period costumes, modern celebrates the human shape under tight fitting unitards. Jazz and tap also evolved from classical ballet, involving more freedom of movement and more modern themes. Many studios also offer more specialized forms of dance, including interpretive, ethnic dance (like Irish step dance, African, Salsa, etc). Serious students seem to be expected to master classical ballet and one or more of the more modern forms of dance, based on studies across studios.

Dancers prefer different artistic expressions to reflect individual visions of self. For instance, one set of twins, who are now adult dancers, recounted their evolving differences in artistry. One prefers the disciplined, proscribed movements of ballet, while the other enjoys the freedom offered by jazz (Hanna, 1988). Storytelling revealed that the "jazz" twin’s preferences were deeply affected through manipulation of the reward structure. In her story, their mother denied the dancer’s desire to learn jazz until she had been taking ballet for a number of years. Thus, freedom was "earned" through submission to the rigors of ballet.

Peter Pan Complex

Opposing forces of freedom and control begin to converge during adolescence. Dance functions as a way for participants to postpone the difficult social, psychological, and physical challenges incumbent on adolescents as they are initiated into adult society. Due to the many hours dancers spend at the studio, in the exclusive company of other dancers (mainly other girls), dancers function within a cloister. Although there are physical and psychological pressures within the studio, girls are allowed to retain both their aura of childlike innocence and body (Hanna, 1988). This is aided by the diets and the intense physical demands of dancing that allow girls to project the image of a child by arresting puberty and diminishing secondary sex characteristics like breasts, fat deposits, and wider hips (Hanna, 1988). Breasts that might be envied by other adolescent girls are a source of derision among dancers. Consider the following posting to the ballet board by a girl from Baltimore:

I am very tall and slim, but have a 32C bust. All the other girls in my class seem to be completely or practically flat-cheated and wear really nice leotards. I have to wear a bra and a sports top and then a horrible non-flattering leotard with chunky straps. It really gets me down when I see them in their beautiful, low-back leotards and no bras.

Even girls without noticeable breasts are uncomfortable with the changes in their bodies and the attention drawn to this feature. For instance, the following story comes from a young dancer in Singapore and was posted on the ballet bulletin board.

Sometimes we have to do steps that are embarrassing because none of us wear bras because we wear spaghetti straps and that makes it very obvious when you wear a bra underneath. Like just yesterday, he made us do this new step that made up jump in the air, arching our back, and our anus behind us in demi-seconde, followed by some other steps. But none of us dared to do it because when we do that, we are stretching out across our chest, and the makes everything too revealing for our liking.

Dieting is a common means employed by girls to delay body changes associated with adolescence, as well as to keep the thinness they feel necessary. Anorexia is very common among dancers and posting to the ballet board suggest the problem begins as young as twelve or even younger. A recovering anorexic dancer, who was devastated on returning from a summer dance program at the Boston Ballet School by the teacher's recommendation to lose weight explained a dancer's need for thinness theorizing that "embodied in their [dancers'] desire for thinness is their need to succeed and control some element of their lives," (Evans, 1997). This may be especially strong in classical ballet dancers whose need to control their bodies and live under the sometime tyrannical control of dance instructor's reported by our informants heightens a natural need for adolescents to gain some element of control over their lives.

Dancers face a double threat to good eating because they face riot only the common peer pressure of all teenagers to be thin, but this is heightened by teachers and peers who assume absolute thinness is a prerequisite for success in the dance world (Evans, 1997). Although unclear where this notion developed, Balanchine (former choreographer and director of the NYC Ballet) is most often blamed, due to his insistence that dancers "eat nothing" and constant checks for thinness by thumping a dancer's ribcage to ensure no fat covered the bone (Hanna, 1988). Of course, not all teachers subscribe to this philosophy and the local dance companies reflect this. In one company, students are allowed to dance regardless of weight and the subject is never articulated except by example-the director is still rail thin in her late forties. In the other company, the director can be vicious in his attacks on overweight dancers, and recently withdrew an important part from a dancer a few days before the performance because she was reportedly five pounds overweight. Observations offer further support for the importance of controlling eating habits. At a recent rehearsal, an extremely thin dancer consumed nothing but water and Slimfast during the six-hour observation. This dancer routinely remains on the fringe during birthday celebrations and other community rituals involving food in her efforts to remain thin.

Not only do dancers strive to make their bodies retain its childlike appearance, but they strive to avoid the emotional complications of adolescence. Adolescence is a time where an individual is trapped between the world of a child and that of an adult-fitting into neither comfortably. No longer willing to follow the directions of adults, the child is unprepared for assuming monumental life decisions and the rigors of social interaction, especially dating.

One mother at the local dance academy told a story about her 14 year-old daughter and her reluctance to become "obsessed" with boys as "all" her peers were.

All the girls around Beth's age are becoming interested in boys. Beth isn't really interested. I told her that, at their age, the boys just move from one girl to the next. The girls get hurt when they move on, but the boys are with a new girl next week-so they aren't too upset. Beth had this boy interested in her. He was talking to her-showing interest. He asked her to go 'out' with him. She got so upset-she passed out. They thought she wasn't eating, but look at my kids-they eat. She was just so upset, she passed out. She's not that social. Now Sheila [her younger daughter], she's the social one. She's always saying 'give me your number, here's my number'. She has friends calling her all the time. I thought it would be Beth, but its Sheila.

It is interesting to note that Beth is a"serious" dancer, while her more social sister is a "social" dancer. Other "serious" dancers posting to the ballet board lamented their lack of a social life; missing football games, dances, and parties to attend dance class. One dancer suggested that dance was all the social life she needed. She felt the friends she made at dance were stronger, closer friendships and she had avoided many mistakes made by nondancing peers. Adult informants echoed their belief that dance involvement acted as sufficient deterrent to keep their children from engaging in serious dark-side consumption activities, specifically smoking, drinking (alcohol), and illicit drug use.

Not all dance genres perpetuate this notion of everlasting childhood and, in fact, some celebrate the sensuousness of human existence. To quote Jackson (1989; pg. 135), "learning a body technique forms a bridge to an empathic understanding to explore the sensuous and affective nature of intersubjectivity". Countering this, classical ballet reflects puritanical beliefs that the body must be harnessed in the pursuit of economic goals and denied freedom in efforts to achieve moral justice (Hanna, 1988). Modem dance is an example of a genre which not only celebrates sensuality, but addresses important aspects of human existence such as diversity, poverty, and women's issues rather than the fairytales that are standard fare in classical ballet (Hanna, 1988). While classical ballet projects virginity with its rigid torso, modem embraces the seductive torso, bulging crotches, dips, and leg splits (Hanna, 1988). Jazz similarly allows more freedom of movement and, combined with use of popular songs, is sometimes very seductive. Not all dancers feel comfortable with such seductiveness, as it defies their child-like self-image. Mary told how her daughter (Pam) was uncomfortable with the dance choreographed by the new jazz teacher. The dance had them spreading their legs and the proposed costumes were tight and revealing. She said you could tell Pain did not enjoy the dance because she did not smile and moved stiffly through the number. Pain appeared to be having a particularly difficult time adjusting to the changes wrought by adolescence. Pam had been one of the youngest solo dancers in the company and was a very accomplished dancer. As her weight increased and it was re-distributed by hormonal actions, she began over spinning, loosing her balance, and falling off pointe. Her dreams of being a professional dancer were beginning to evaporate before her eyes and the lost innocence of the seductive dance meant a further step on the journey toward an adulthood that frightened her.

Rites of passage

The important transition from adolescence to adulthood is highlighted in many cultures, although the normative timing and means of demarcation for that transitory period varies. Not surprisingly, the entrance of young men into adulthood has been the traditional focus of formalized rites of passage. In many societies where survival is dependent on a man's ability to procure food, displays of strength, survival ability, or courage commonly distinguish adult from child. In the U.S. and other developed nations, formalized rites of passage vary along cultural and regional dimensions or may be expressed in informal norms. For instance, Mexican Americans continue celebrating adulthood at 15 (quiencenero), as is the custom in Mexico, while other groups might recognize legal majority (at 18), high school graduation, or marriage as a surrogate measure of adult status.

In dance, the transition from dancing on demi-pointe to pointe marks the symbolic transformation from girl to woman-an event marked by rituals associated with buying the first pair of pointe shoes. As described by Spencer (1985), this initiation ordeal is the culmination of years of rigorous training designed to separate adept from inept children as a portent to their later success. Using pointe shoes, a dancer gains grace, height, and freedom of movement by performing on three toes with the help of a rigid "box" in the toe of the shoe (Hanna 1988). Only female dancers are allowed on pointe, which emphasizes the duality inherent in a dance form that both allows greater movement while increasing a dancer's dependence on her male partner for balance. As with other initiation rituals, this comes at the expense of physical pain and disfigurement, which is obvious when looking at the unshod feet of dancers.

Consumption of pointe shoes are such a strong symbol of attainment, that one local boutique has moved their display higher on the wall because younger dancers persisted in trying them on when no one was looking. Another dance boutique instituted a fee for trying on shoes unless a purchase resulted. The shoes seem to have a magical fascination. The desire for a culturally derived notion of beauty likely underscores this fascination. For instance, the local dance teacher calls feet "ugly" when they're not pointed and contends the audience does not want come to the ballet to see "ugly" feet. By emphasizing the arch and point by wearing pointe shoes, dancers transform the unattractive and unacceptable into someone to be admired by the audience through this consumption event.

Pointe shoes are not "put on" but have proscribed ritual associated with them, as do most serious leisure activities (Belk and Costa 1998). Pointe shoes require special pads and tape to protect the feet from the hardened, box-like apparatus. The ribbons of the shoe must be carefully wrapped around the ankle and foot just so. Finally, the girl ascends on toe to ensure the ribbons are neither too tight nor too loose. A dusting of resin is applied before the ritual is considered complete. Girls normally begin arriving 30 minutes early to ensure adequate time for this ritual. Breaking in a pair of pointe shoes is also a serious matter. The shoe may be worn around the house until the box forms to the shape of the foot before being used for dancing. A girl usually has three pairs of shoes, one that she's breaking in, one that's been broken in, and one old pair in case her feet are bothering her. One local dance teacher emphasizes the privilege associated with the consumption of pointe shoes by assuming ownership of the shoes. Students who fail to perform appropriately may lose their pointe shoes.

As with other rites of passage, the transition to pointe shoes is accomplished only through pain. Jaime said she warned her pedicurist to be sure to leave the hard-won calluses from wearing her pointe shoes; otherwise, her feet would begin to hurt and blister again. The local dance instructor, who is in her 40's, gave up dancing on pointe more than 10 years ago due to the pain cause by years of dancing on pointe shoes and beginning work on pointe too early. She now has trouble standing for long periods of time. Dancers on the ballet bulletin board also spend a lot of time talking about feet. The following shows the other side of the love/hate relationships between dancers and pointe shoes.

I have the worst feet! My big toenails are forever getting banged in my pointe shoes, causing them to be black for a few months, then come off completely! I hate looking at the ugly place where the new toenail is trying to come in! Plus, I have very bony toes, so they have grown knobby and gnarled over my years of pointe work. Of course, you could play connect the dots with the little scars I have on each toe knuckle and you can thump calluses all over and the little rosy splotches from rubbing give me my nickname "Rozetoze".


Understanding adolescent girls is never an easy task, especially when it comes to understanding their consumption behavior. Through portraying the socially constructed view developed within the subculture of dancers, this paper begins to inform our understanding of defining elements of the dance culture. The reality constructed by these dancers is also similar to the reality of non-dancing adolescents and highlights the struggle inherent in the conflicting dualities of adolescence. There are struggles between childhood and impending maturation that call the adolescent back toward the safety of childhood, while their bodies traverse inevitable biological imperatives. Also evident are struggles to develop a self-image as a distinct unit, while fitting into a larger social structure that privileges conformity. Through control imposed by studious application of dance techniques, dancers transcend publicly scripted roles emphasizing industriousness to glimpse the freedom, creativity, and playfulness of modem and jazz dancing (Thompson and Haytko, 1997).

As suggested by the following quote by Tamisari (2000, pg. 85), "the experience of being embodied is never a private affair, but is always mediated by our continual interaction with other human and non-human bodies," the self is constructed not only through reflection, but though interactions that reinforce or deny self. By dancing their fairytale roles, these adolescents not only reconstruct the fantasy experiences of others, but define self Through their dance, they transform the values, beliefs, and expressions of society into a personal manifesto (Hanna, 1983).


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Angela Hausman, The University of TexasBPan American, USA


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2003

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