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Heiland, Teresa L., Darrin S. Murray, and Paige P. Edley. “Body Image of Dancers in Los Angeles: the Cult of Slenderness and Media Influence among Dance Students.” Research in Dance Education 9.3 (2008): 257-75. Academic Search Complete. Web. 9 Apr. 2010.

As previously stated, Bianca and I have decided to explore body image along with gender in the extended Indian dance community. The articles “Body image of dancers in Los Angeles: the cult of slenderness and media influence among dance students” and “Dancing the difference” appropriately discuss our research topic. In the article “Body image of dancers in Los Angeles: the cult of slenderness and media influence among dance students”, Heiland et al. addresses the issue and importance of thinness in the dance community.  This article consists of personal stories, surveys, assessments, and interviews. From the beginning of the article, we identify the emphasis on being extremely thin. We learn “body image and the beliefs, attitudes, and values we acquire throughout our lives can be attributed to social factors that support how we think we should think, look, and act” (Heiland et al., 258).  One of the main causes of this “slender epidemic” is due to the influence of the media on a docile and acquiescent population of young women.  Dancers are not analyzed and judged solely on their skill, but on how they look and how their appearance can grant them success.  In order to achieve the ideal body, dancers starve themselves near death or else are deemed undesirable and are viewed as less feminine. Through interviews, we learn that other social factors that influence the ideal body type are parents, instructors, and other authority figures. Overall, the lesson to be learned is that body image is a product of society and dancers must be slender in order to prosper.

This article directly relates to our topic in that it reflects society’s view on how dancers should look. This article provides some insight into some of the possible responses we may obtain from our research. Through the use of various methodologies, the research article proves to be reliable, which inspires hope for generalizable conclusions in our research.

Thomas, Helen. “Dancing the difference.” Women’s Studies International Forum 19.5 (1996): 505-11. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 9 Apr. 2010.

In the article “Dancing the difference”, Thomas highlights how dancers themselves perceive the differences between male and female dancers through ethnographic research including, but not limited to participant observation. In her discussion, she also touches upon race in relation to perception. She tells us that dance is seen as a feminine activity and that men who participate run the risk of being perceived as less masculine. In interviews, men revealed that they are truly heterosexual, but know they may be seen as homosexual in the public eye if they were to perform with another male.  Two females, participating in the same dance piece, may represent “camaraderie or friendship”.  In the article, Thomas points out that the type of dance matters in the perception of a general audience. For example, female dancers are always expected to look soft, graceful and petite, whereas male dancers, regardless of the kind of dance, are expected to appear strong at all times. Thomas addresses race in terms of white supremacy over blacks, but we hope to address it differently. From the article, we learn that how dancers perceive themselves counter how society views them.

This research article directly relates to our topic in that it provides a new and different perspective for our paper. For example, we intend to obtain society’s view on male dancers in particular, but this article shows us how they see themselves and how it differs from society’s opinions. Additionally, we want to allude to race in the paper by observing how male dancers who take part in solely Indian dances are perceived and how West Indian male dancers are seen.


We will go about our research via photo elicitation, participant observation (we will go to different dance shows and observe the audience’s reaction), as well as short questionnaires to get a general idea of how people feel about gender and body image in the dance community. We choose to use photo elicitation in order to provoke honest opinions about the dancers in specific video segments.  For example, we will show a clip of a male belly dancer performing in a Trinidadian dance competition.  We will then ask the participant what he or she honestly thinks about the dancer. Therefore, the participant provides responses that may be shared amongst a community or society as a whole. Our targeted participants consist of males, females, adolescents, elders, and people of all races/nationalities. This method contributes to overall perceptions of male dancers. We will also show photos of dancers of different sizes (body type) in order to obtain conclusions about what body type is acceptable in society. Being that Bianca and I are involved in a dance group of our own, we will successfully be participant observers.  We will try and step out of our comfort zone, in order to critically analyze the dance population. It would not be difficult for us to become one with the group and live like they do, but problems may occur in the biases that we may create.  We are also thinking of eliminating that problem by “joining” another dance group that we have access to. Participant observation is our method of choice in order to support our research. Lastly, we opt to use short questionnaires.  These questionnaires will ask various questions about acceptability in dance culture and will advance our researcher to a stronger level.

Ethical Considerations

Our project involves the extended Indian dance community. Being that we are familiar with several dance teams, we will inform them of our study.  Given their permission, we will record pictures and videos of them in action.  We will obtain verbal permission as well get permission on video. We will then ask them if it is possible to republish their work for class purposes and research purposes as well.  By research purposes, we mean that we will ask them if we can use their photos or film to stimulate conversations and information among participants in our study. The surveys will be strictly anonymous and we will add disclaimers to the survey informing them of our research purposes.  At the dance shows we will be attending, we hope to ask some of the audience about their personal opinion on what they feel the ideal dancer looks like. We will then ask verbal permission to publish their opinions in our report.

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April 13th, 2010 at 9:52 pm and tagged ,