Synopses & Reviews
That men don't dance is a common stereotype. As one man tried to explain, "Music is something that goes on inside my head, and is sort of divorced from, to a large extent, the rest of my body." How did this man's head become divorced from his body? While it may seem natural and obvious that most white men don't dance, it is actually a recent phenomenon tied to the changing norms of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Combining archival sources, interviews, and participant observation, Sorry I Don't Dance
analyzes how, within the United States, recreational dance became associated with women rather than men, youths rather than adults, and ethnic minorities rather than whites.
At the beginning of the twentieth century and World War II, lots of ordinary men danced. In fact, during the first two decades of the twentieth century dance was so enormously popular that journalists reported that young people had gone "dance mad" and reformers campaigned against its moral dangers. During World War II dance was an activity associated with wholesome masculinity, and the USO organized dances and supplied dance partners to servicemen. Later, men in the Swing Era danced, but many of their sons and grandsons do not. Turning her attention to these contemporary wallflowers, Maxine Craig talks to men about how they learn to dance or avoid learning to dance within a culture that celebrates masculinity as white and physically constrained and associates both femininity and ethnically-marked men with sensuality and physical expressivity. In this way, race and gender get into bodies and become the visible, common sense proof of racial and gender difference.
"Yes! Real men dance-which comes as quite a relief to this man who spent hundreds of hours in front of a mirror mastering the dance steps to the Temptations' 'My Girl.' And they always have danced-from mining camps to tea lounges, army bases to discos. Combining deft historical excavation and discerning interviews, Maxine Craig shows men hogtied by an ideology of masculinity that leaves them barely able to sway against the wall. Her book will help them heed the urgings of so many singers, from Sly Stone to David Bowie. Let's dance."-Michael Kimmel, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, SUNY Stony Brook
"Rich with insight, Sorry I Don't Dance maps the ever-shifting field of dance and movement, its entanglements with race, sex and sexuality, social class, the meaning of American patriotism, and morality. Craig draws together a range of materials that permit both historical analysis of masculine dance practice and a fine-tuned analysis of the everyday landscape of contemporary men and masculine embodiment. A sensitive investigation of a complicated topic."-Amy Best, author of Prom Night
"For anyone who has tried to get a man to dance, Maxine Craig shows how a man's refusal or acceptance has little to do with his would-be partner and much to do with how he was raised, in what communities and time period, and whether he experiences dance as threatening or enhancing his masculinity. Craig weaves together sophisticated analyses of the race, class, gender and sexual dimensions of embodied performance with evocative and eye-opening stories and interviews."-Miliann Kang, author of The Managed Hand
If you want to learn about masculinity, ask a man if he likes to dance. One man in this study answered, "Music is something that goes on inside my head, and is sort of divorced from, to a large extent, the rest of my body." How did this man's head become divorced from his body? To answer this question, Maxine Craig sought out men who love music but hate to dance. Combining interviews, participant observation and archival research, Sorry I Don't Dance uncovers the recent origins of cultural assumptions regarding sex, race, and the capacity to dance. From the beginning of the twentieth century through the Swing Era young men of all races danced. But in the 1960s suburbanization, homophobia, and fragmentation of music cultures drove white men from the dance floor, and feminized, sexualized and racialized dance. Sorry I Don't Dance reveals how changing beliefs concerning gender, race, class, and sexuality over the past half-century have redefined what it means to be a man in America.
About the Author
Maxine Leeds Craig
is Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the Univeristy of California, Davis. She is the author of Ain't I a Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Searching for Dancing Men
Chapter 2: The New Woman and the Old Man
Chapter 3: Becoming White Folk
Chapter 4: Dancing in Uniform
Chapter 5: Managing the Gaze
Chapter 6: Stepping On and Across Boundaries
Chapter 7: Sex or "Just Dancing"
Chapter 8: Conclusions