Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Women's Studies and Gender Studies
Throughout my life as a dancer, I often wondered if body image issues were purely found in Western concert dance (such as ballet and modern dance) and if folk dance instilled a sense of ownership over one’s body. It was apparent to me that being asked to stare at yourself in the mirror for hours on end in a ballet class, or any other dance style, forced you to see every tiny defect in your body. For me personally, this caused a lot of body dysmorphia and body image issues that I carry to this day. While some folk dance is done as performance, the initial reason for the dance is for the community and for the dancer alone. It is a means of celebrating and expressing the dancer’s feelings. Based on my readings and understanding of Jewish folk dance, in Jewish culture, dance is primarily used as a means of celebration and formation of an identity. There is a place for both men and women in Jewish folk dance, but we will come to understand that in many sects of Judaism women are kept in the private sphere while men alone are allowed to perform in the public sphere. This thesis will explore how body image may manifest for women in Jewish folk dance. I will use the literature and autoethnography to look at a number of questions including: will self-esteem increase when gender is removed from the equation, or does making dance gender neutral force women to restrict their movement and remove their femininity? What are the similarities and differences for how Hasidic/orthodox women feel about their dance roles? Is there something specific about Jewish folk dance that differs from how other styles of folk dance when it comes to feelings of body image? These are the types of questions I believe can be answered by looking at body image in performance dance and Jewish folk dance.
Berkowitz, Alexa, "The Jewish Dancing Body: Body Image in Jewish Folk Dance" (2023). Master's Theses. 4470.
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