The Choreography of Gender

Allison Yamanashi Leib, Robert Bulman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The popularity of ballroom dance has ebbed and flowed over the years. In this article we argue that the attitude Americans have toward ballroom dance reflects society’s acceptance and rejection of different expressions of femininity and masculinity. Although ballroom dance is predicated on rigid gender roles, its popularity has increased in the United States over the past few years. We use in-depth interviews and participant observation to explore how modern ballroom dancers express their masculinity and femininity on and off the dance floor. We find that men and women construct complex gender identities that are both traditional and progressive. Some are creating gender identities incorporating traditional and nontraditional traits. Our interviewees reinforced this gender complexity and showed that no one is bound to one standard of masculinity or femininity. Rather, each person is free to choreograph his or her own gender identity.


  • dance
  • ballroom dance
  • masculinity
  • femininity
  • gender identify
  • sexuality


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Sociology

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