Swapping the Pleasures

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  • Title: Swapping the Pleasures: Case Study of a Social Practice Artwork Encouraging Alternative Performances of Gender within the Social Dancing of Kizomba
  • Author(s): David Collins
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review
  • Keywords: Social Practice, Gender, Performance, Kizomba, Dance
  • Volume: 14
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2020
  • ISSN: 1833-1866 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2473-5809 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v14i01/1-12
  • Citation: Collins, David. 2020. "Swapping the Pleasures: Case Study of a Social Practice Artwork Encouraging Alternative Performances of Gender within the Social Dancing of Kizomba." The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review 14 (1): 1-12. doi:10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v14i01/1-12.
  • Extent: 12 pages

Abstract

The teaching of Afro-Latin partner dance forms including Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha Cha, and Kizomba routinely encourages participants to perform their gender within a rigid paradigm of heteronormative power relations. Although many dancers are challenging the conventions of male leading and female following through initiatives such as queer tango and same-sex ballroom dance, there is virtually no evidence of social-dance role reversal within mixed-sex couples, i.e. women leading men. This article is a case study of a role-swap Kizomba course run in the city of Leeds in the UK, which aimed to challenge the twin taboos of men following women and women leading men in Afro-Latin social partner dance. It aimed to discover whether, if provided with the opportunity, social dancers were open to dance-role reversal within a heterosexualized context. The course was conceived as a social practice artwork. This study draws data from: questionnaires completed by dancers who attended the classes; ethnographic observation of the process and its outcomes; and interviews with members of the larger Kizomba dancing community. The results of the role-swap course confounded the expectations from the literature review, with both female and male participants demonstrating an openness to learning nontraditional roles. This case study advocates the potential for creative interventions within existing communities of practice as a means to challenge conventions of social relations within those contexts.