Governed and Liberated Bodies: Experiences of Young Female Competitive Dancers

  • Dawn Zinga
  • Danielle Sirianni Molnar
  • Maureen Connolly
  • Natalie Tacuri
Keywords: dance; self-determination theory; Foucault; habitus


Dancers’ bodies are governed by rules, training, and expectations, yet dancers often report dance to be liberating and a source of emotional expression. In this study, a document analysis of the rules associated with 15 Canadian competitions was combined with focus groups conducted with 15 female dancers. These dancers had transitioned from competitive dance studio contexts as girls to training and competing at a postsecondary level. Applying a multidisciplinary theoretical approach that drew from self-determination theory, Foucault, and Bourdieu, we discovered that collectively these theories provide insights into the complex and contradictory world of competitive dance.

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