9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN07 Sociology of Culture

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 Art, Theatre, Dance Building II, C4.07

Embarassment as a Sign of Lack of Embodied Culture in Performance: the Case of Dance

In reflecting, starting from dance case, upon the link between (incompetent) performance and embarassment, the aim of the paper is twofold: extending Goffman?s (1956, 1959, 1969) analysis of this cross-cultural social feeling beyond conversational encounters to non-verbal performances and defining embarassment as a sign of lack of embodied culture.

The paper derives from my multisite ethnography on the professional world of dancers. Data include interviews as well as fieldnotes and video-recordings of the everyday natural occurring activities of two Italian dance companies and related schools, where ? in order to better understand dance training a/effects ? I also enrolled for the first time in dance courses.

Embarassment appears when someone, reflexively looking at him/herself through the eyes of the others and imagining their judgement, sees him/herself as an incompetent member of a specific, more or less situated, social group, with its own specific culture. In the case at hand, dancers usually feel embarassed (and/or ashamed) about how their own body looks and, especially, moves in comparison to the other bodies surrounding it and/or in comparison to how it should move ideally. Dance culture, in fact, is mostly a bodily kinetic one.

Feeling embarrased happens, although differences, for both professional ? in facing new body-work experiences ? and aspiring ? in the process of emboding dance culture and aesthetics ? dancers; in both on-stage and off-stage (reharsals, lessons, or even ordinary activities if carried out with other dancers) performances. The paper explores these various cases, underling the common motive for (lack of embodied specific culture), and the objective and subjective symptoms of (i.e. immobility, touching hair, setting right clothes, etc.), dancers? embarassment in/for their non-verbal performances. Finally, some considerations are put forward concerning the role of the dance practice room?s mirror in raising embarassment as well as in increasing it by making more difficult to conceal this feeling from the others present.

[Topic: Performing Cultures]