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Why Dance: The Emotional Motivation of a Most Unlikely Group of Dancers

Lawson, Helene (2009) Why Dance: The Emotional Motivation of a Most Unlikely Group of Dancers. Music and Arts in Action, 1 (2). 3 - 15. ISSN 1754-7105

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This article explores the motivations of adult amateur tap dancers to gain insight into how they construct their social reality, what is the significance of this activity to the dancers, and how does it relate to the dance “culture” more broadly. The research was done as a participant observer amongst a group of primarily middleaged women in six different locations over a period of five years. These amateur tap dancers are strongly motivated in spite of their minimal talent and the lack of support they might experience when compared to professional dancers. Their often-labored explanations, while unable to enunciate the essence of the sensation they experience, describe what they are doing as a group ritual of emotional renewal. By examining what is said and not said, I additionally uncover social constraints that shaped their explanations. Performance emerges as a game in which the amateur challenges the socially constructed norms of legitimacy in art culture. This “scary” feat of performing is worth the effort because of its innate thrill and the expectation of applause from an audience largely outside the group.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lawson, Helenelawson@pitt.eduLAWSON
Date: 2009
Date Type: Publication
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Journal or Publication Title: Music and Arts in Action
Volume: 1
Number: 2
Publisher: University of Exeter
Page Range: 3 - 15
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1754-7105
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2012 21:35
Last Modified: 25 Aug 2017 05:08


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