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Wayne State University

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'Stigma and Perseverance in the Lives of Boys Who Dance,' new book authored by Wayne State dance professor

August 31, 2009

DETROIT (Aug. 28, 2009) - Dance, its training and social meanings, has a rich history and long-time associations with gender and gender roles in world culture. While dance in some cultures is seen as an appropriate activity and valid vocation for males, the dominant Western paradigm positions concert dance as a predominantly "female" activity and art form.

In his new book, Stigma and Perseverance in the Lives of Boys Who Dance, Doug Risner, Ph.D., investigates the competitive world of pre-professional Western concert dance training and education in the U.S. as experienced and lived by boys and young men, a highly stigmatized population in the field.

Through theoretical and narrative approaches, the book illuminates the highly gendered professional dance world as evidenced through the experiences of 75 male adolescents and young adults. The study's substantial social implications about gender, homophobia, sexual orientation, gendered bodies, and child culture will appeal to multiple readers in dance, arts education, and gender studies.

As the most comprehensive study of boys and young adult males in dance training and education in the U.S to date, Risner has discovered that boys who study dance recognize that dance is fundamentally not like competitive sports, and that most boys-like most girls-value the opportunities for self-expression and creativity that dance uniquely provides.

Ultimately, Risner sees the proliferation of undergraduate dance programs across the nation as key to educating teachers who will eventually improve the conditions of boys' lives in dance and increase realistic recruitment strategies to attract males to dance.

"The ‘problem of the male dancer' is in fact a series of far wider cultural problems surrounding gender, masculinity, stereotypes, homophobia and prejudice," Risner notes. "The ever-increasing number of males pursuing professional preparation in higher education dance (56% increase in males since 2004), positions post-secondary dance for redefining gender balance, symmetry and innovative outreach strategies for male recruitment, male role modeling and anti-homophobic approaches for adolescent boys in dance."

Doug Risner, Associate Professor, Maggie Allesee Department of Dance at Wayne State University, draws from his experience as a former professional dancer and artistic director, a qualitative researcher, and editor of Journal of Dance Education to illuminate the first-ever comprehensive understanding of male identities in Western theatrical dance.

The book is available for order at Barnes & Noble and Amazon online. For further information contact the Maggie Allesee Department of Dance (313) 577-9879.

The Maggie Allesee Department of Dance is a vital division of Wayne State's College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

Wayne State University is a premier institution of higher education offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 31,000 students in Detroit.

  • Contact: Doug Risner
  • Voice: (313) 577-9879
  • Email: drisner@wayne.edu
  • Website: www.dance.wayne.edu
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