Joanna Bosse is an associate professor of ethnomusicology and dance studies at Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. She answered some questions about her book Becoming Beautiful: Ballroom Dance in the American Heartland. In the book she explores the transformations undergone by the residents of a Midwestern town when they step out on the dance floor for the very first time.
Q: What draws those with little dance experience into the world of ballroom?
Joanna Bosse: I think many adults in the U.S. are seeking ways to be physical and creative. As a population, I think we are still struggling to find a way to do this organically: our work and family lives take over and we put our mental and physical health on the back burner. At some point, and for many of the ballroom dancers I worked with, they began to dance after a major transition in their family life. Either their kids moved away to college or they divorced or experienced the death of a spouse. This transition creates a space that needs to be filled and many turn to dance to find a better balance than in the life they had before.
Ballroom is not the only avenue for this kind of thing, but it is particularly well-suited to this role. It was designed for adults with little dance experience and as such, the beginning “basic” steps require not much more than walking. Slowly one moves from essentially walking in time to dancing and the transition is almost seamless. The fear of taking risks and trying something new slowly erodes under the positive reinforcement that each dance experience can provide. It is powerful and meaningful. Continue reading