Tag Archives: Britney Spears

there’s enough male gaze to go around

I’ve been thinking about my last post, about falling in love with complete strangers just because you’ve seen their ridiculous six (twelve)-pack-of-abs work it out on stage, and you liked it enough to see that same show two more times and then stalk them on Facebook…all in the same week. The more I ponder this and my dying need to be the one lusted after (minus the abs), the more I question if this is all just proof that the male-gaze is alive and well…and unavoidable? – and then I wonder how sick and twisted this natural pattern of behavior actually is.

Dumbledore tweeted this article (then read this article in The New York Times about the competition circuit…some interesting points as well), and it made me think about my entire existence as a dancer (oh the drama of it all) – starting with my studio days.

I remember being 12 years old dancing to “I Gotcha” Fosse style, being asked to gyrate my hips and make a CFM (come *bad word* me) face…
But don’t worry, because I was the youngest performer in the group I wore a pleather leotard and fishnet tights rather than a midriff bearing costume (age appropriate attire, people). We were the award-winning routine throughout all of our regional competitions, and then again at nationals that summer. And that’s what really mattered, right? I’m sure my father thought so too…

Also, how many times have I daydreamed (from the time I was 9 years old to I don’t know, yesterday) about BEING Britney Spears circa early 2000’s…yellow snake and all? I had my first world tour completely planned out at 12 years of age – I had not only drawn my set design (in specific detail) on construction paper, but I had all of my sequinny barely-there costumes sketched out and ready for construction. I would practice my hair and makeup in the mirror (taking photos of Britney’s videos and trying to recreate the looks with my Wet-n-Wild collection) but would then quickly wash it off before my parents could see the inches of makeup and hairspray layered on. I fantasized about being the person everyone else was fantasizing about, and essentially, this delusion translated into my current fantasy about being the modern dancer that everyone wants to work with. Dance Magazine’s top 25 to watch…anyone?

The sick thing is, I daydream through the lens of the gaze…

Sure I spend hours in the studio working on my technique and efficiency, but deep down, I want to perform. I want praise. I want you to fall in love. I want you to gaze, and I always have. Does this really mean I essentially want to be objectified? I can’t tell. Maybe?

Part of me thinks I’m insecure and just need lots of attention.

Gaze at me, bitches…all day.

But the other part of me doesn’t necessarily want you judging. I’m a smart girl, and YOU DON’T EVEN CARE.

I can’t quite figure out if I want to be gazed at because that’s what Britney taught me?—OR if Britney flashing her body with confidence actually empowered my own self-assurance? As much as one can claim they perform for their own pleasure, can it really go unnoticed that they’re essentially putting themselves on display for the benefit of other people? And the people in the audience, they come to fall in love…with you! It’s a cyclic pattern of love, sure, but also a heteronormative gaze-fest that society tells us to not only expect, but also to accept.

At the time, I thought my Fosse moves were merely a means to a successful end at competition, the thing I cared about most. What I didn’t realize however, and I’m positive it wasn’t intentional, was that I was being taught that positive accolades were simply achieved by exploiting my body and even further, my sexuality. Yes, it was adorable to watch 12-year-old me practice her CFM face in the mirror.

Now 25-year old me can’t help but think about how the gaze has literally taken over just about every facet of her existence. I realized this morning that I not only have wrinkles on my forehead, but I have them on my chest as well (WEAR SUNSCREEN, FRIENDS!!!)…AND my hair is starting to turn gray. Does this mean I’m not beautiful anymore? What’s going to happen when I have a full head of gray hair and face full of fine lines?

WHO’S GOING TO GAZE AT ME???  WHO IS GOING TO LOVE ME?!?!? (Relax, I’ll dye my hair and get Botox…just kidding…sort of…)

So much conflict here. I’m pursuing a career that basically revolves around me making a spectacle of myself (I mean, addressing the human condition through abstract movement…of course.), but at the same time, it doesn’t actually matter if I’m on the stage or off, society has made it pretty clear that I have a role to fill.

I’m not quite sure how to fix this situation, I might even agree with Bowen when she argues, “…that the prevalence of the male gaze makes it an inescapable part of our culture and psyches.” Sure I play my part in all of this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, or even agree with it.

So why do I impose the gaze onto others?—at this point, it’s so ingrained, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. From crushing on beautiful men that I see perform on stage, to telling my little cousin that I love her dress even before anything else get’s mentioned, am I any better off than having a porn-watching marathon just for funsies on a Tuesday. I mean, right?

The more I think and write about how our society has integrated the male gaze into our everyday, the more fired up I become – but really, deep down I know that I’m not going all of a sudden break free and destroy the gaze forever – I engage with it almost daily, and I suppose it’s this exact complacency that allows it to persist.

So I sent a draft of this post to my boyfriend to proofread, like I do with most others…and was so shocked at how passionate he became in response via G-chat. It was like a flood of opinions being thrown at me, until I finally asked him to just write a supplemental post. So I share with you, his take – the privileged (self-aware) perspective of my educated, white, heterosexual boyfriend, Paul.

When my girlfriend sent me a draft of her blog post, I immediately had two thoughts. The first was, Why does she keep talking about my incredible abs? The second thought was about how the male gaze (I just air quoted it, FYI) permeates every aspect of our culture.  If you try and consider the male gaze as the center of a wheel, then one can envision a lot of the related (or even tangential) issues as spokes off the wheel.  I should state that these spokes are sharp as shit and cause me to wonder whether or not I should ever have children.  These male gaze-y wheels aren’t exactly comfortable.  Buckle up kids, as this is going to be a bumpy ride.

The commodification of sexuality is something that is inextricably bound with Nicole’s post about the male gaze.  She speaks about making her best CFM face as a pre-teen, before she even knew what that meant.  Sure, the 12-year old is having a great time dancing around, even if she doesn’t understand the latent sexuality of the choreography.  Unfortunately, this is something that is the exception, and not the norm:

There are egregious examples of this, like a routine at a California competition in 2010 in which preadolescent girls performed highly sexualized moves to the Beyoncé hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” But even in less lurid numbers there is often the disquieting sense of children being made to ape pop-culture stereotypes of adult behavior: boys as macho men, girls as sassy flirts. (NYT Piece)

            This is not – I repeat, NOT – exclusive to perhaps clueless Dance Moms.

 Victoria’s Secret came under fire this year with their Bright Young Things line, which many parents claimed were marketed towards tweens.  Yes, your little 12-year old cousin wants to wear pants with suggestive words emblazoned on the bottom.  Victoria’s Secret claims this is marketed towards college aged girls in time for Spring Break.  Camel said the same thing about their cartoon mascot hawking cigarettes.  Obviously not for the kids, right?

I understand that it’s hard for some women to read what I am writing, because my nature precludes me from experiencing this first-hand.  I am, by the definition of some, the exact person who benefits from the white privileged, heteronormative male gaze. (The Feministing post elucidates that there is an element of white privilege in the male gaze, as the writer identifies herself as someone who is outside of the thin, light-skinned “ideal” that is presented in every fashion magazine and billboard everywhere ever.)

When we talk about hypersexualization, violence against women, or even the college culture of hooking up*, it’s not a game.  If it were one, it would be a skewed one.  The house always wins,  and this house is most definitely a house of patriarchy. Except in this game, everybody loses. (I am hiding behind a garbage can while the ladies of Jezebel arm themselves with tomatoes to throw in my direction.)

Check out this recent NYT article, and a counterpoint by Slate.

In our private conversation, Nicole said to me that “…even my gaze is essentially from the viewpoint of a heterosexual male.”  Is she incorrect? I don’t think so.  While we have seen great progress vis-a-vis the end of DOMA and the slow realization that gay isn’t just a trendy thing for Hollyweirdos (sorry, Michelle Bachmann), Primetime television can still seem recalcitrant when it comes to displaying these relationships – especially a gay male couple.  America watches TV, and not just men.  But men don’t want to see men kissing – they want to see women. 

In the 1990s, you saw Ellen kiss Joely Fisher.  You saw Neve Campbell kiss her professor in 1999.  You saw Calista Flockhart kiss Lucy Liu for 21 seconds in 1999.  But in 1994 on Melrose Place, when Doug Savant was going to kiss another dude… well, pressure from an advertiser caused Fox to cut away. 

When I think of a music video, I think of women being paid next to nothing in order to twerk on camera in next to nothing while the rapper/singer (usually, a man) is there fully clothed. In her new single, Miley Cyrus sings (or warbles, if you ask me) about how we own the night, and how we aren’t going to stop partying no matter what.  Except while she does this, she writhes about and makes her own distorted CFM face as she makes out with a Barbie doll.  Hell, Robin Thicke even sings about tearing that ass up in his newest #1 single that your 9-year old cousin sings in the car on the way to church. Here’s Mr. Thicke, himself:

We tried to do everything that was taboo. Bestiality, drug injections, and everything that is completely derogatory towards women. Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, “We’re the perfect guys to make fun of this.” People say, “Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?” I’m like, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.” So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, “Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”

Because, ladies, the message here is that apparently we can’t help it.  It’s not our fault that women come to our parties and drink our alcohol and wear short dresses. (This is sarcasm. A vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend) But then the question remains, whose fault is it?  How did we get to this point?  It’s easy to blame the multi-million dollar porn industry for turning our hearts and minds into depraved, Tiger Woods-style sex fiends who want nothing more than to “choke a bitch” and then produce our own live action “money shots” from within the confines of our own bedrooms.  The problem is that there is no way we can pin this down on a particular issue.  It is a confluence of commonplace misogyny that is tolerated, if not celebrated.  After all, it’s just a song/movie/rap lyric/29 minute porn film involving powertools – if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to watch it, and it won’t affect you… right?

We live in the most progressive country in the WORLD – and yet, even here we have this notion that women do not know what’s best for their own bodies.  We let legislative bodies of old white men – here’s looking at you, Rick Perry, Todd Akin, and the legion of other members of Government who fucking sit in committees dedicated to health and SCIENCE – pass laws that they think will best serve young women. 

We live in a culture where sexting is a thing.  It’s an actual term that people use.  Isn’t that embarrassing? (The term and not the actual notion of sending racy messages)  Our grandparents used to send each other love letters during World Wars, and we choose to send photos of our genitals with a self destruct time limit. In the event a woman feels empowered by taking nude photos and sending them to a romantic interest, there is the risk (or perhaps inevitability) he will share it – be it with his dorm mates, his frat brothers, or the internet.  Snapchat is wonderful because it lets you know that someone just took a screencap of your picture.  Except the second someone takes that screenshot, you’ve lost whatever illusion of power you had.  It is (literally) stripped from a woman when the picture she sent in confidence is displayed on the internet in perpetuity – and embarrassment.  The revenge porn apologist will rationalize his actions, usually by claiming the person who sent the photo knew or, perhaps more brazenly, wanted others to see the photo.  The person whom sent the photo is denied their autonomy as these decisions are made for them. (See: The legislative branch, etc.)  

The male gaze dominates every arena of our daily lives.  It saturates, if not dominates, both public and private spheres.  It is the monsoon that does not concern itself with waves of Feminism.  The old adage is, “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” Another one is “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” 

Well, ladies and gentlemen:  The wheel is broken. It doesn’t need to be fixed.

It needs to be burned to ashes and rebuilt from scratch.

Its me again, KapDaddy. So as you can see, the male gaze has the potential to elicit some pretty passionate arguments– what are your thoughts?

To gaze or not to gaze, that is the question.

To gaze or not to gaze, that is the question.

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flecks of thanks!

I was told a few weeks ago that through good times and bad, life should be experienced through a “Thankful Heart”.

This got me thinking, I’ve thought/talked about things I’ve wanted/needed/aspired to become/hated, but I’ve never shared what I’m thankful for within our glitterific community of dance and awesomeness…

Since it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m sure plenty (most) of you are thinking less about undercurves and more about how much food your stomach can hold in 24 hours, I thought I’d share my Thankful Heart with all of you:

1. I’m thankful for the people who believe in me even when I stutter, spell incorrectly, fall on my face (literally…improv is hard), and awkwardly blog about them.

2. I’m thankful for people like this (Introducing: Kendra Portier) who inspire me to find my own voice and then love it for what it is.

3. I’m thankful for the opportunities and experiences that I’m not always certain I deserve…like being allowed to teach my version of head/shoulders/knees/toes to some of the most amazing dancers (and getting paid for it…)

4. I’m thankful for Britney Spears, the woman who taught me how to be unapologetically fierce (circa 2002…obviously).

5. I’m thankful that this guy decided to give me the permission to just say yes! (…and to BDF for accepting me into their program so that I could meet this guy…)

6. I’m thankful for sports bras.

7. I’m thankful that in a world full of “aesthetics” and “ideals”, every single one of us has a place if we choose to own it.

8. I’m thankful for this tiny community of dance. In an environment where you don’t know a soul, you quickly realize that it’s a lie, and that you’re actually back home with old friends.

9. I’m thankful for my Grandpa-Kaplan who claims to have taught me all of my “cool moves”…apparently without him, I wouldn’t be here…

10. And finally, I’m thankful that you people find me interesting enough to read my blog about sports bras and tendus week after week. THANK YOU!

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i think i’m supposed to be embarrassed..

So…a few things…

  1. I’m a super geek and have serious crushes on a few of the faculty members at Brockport…not hard to figure out by now…
  2. I’m still so amazed at their willingness to socialize with me on a regular basis outside of the classroom. (…hence super geek…)

just waiting for Dance Research to start…

I realize that power is assigned and that it’s all relative, and I also realize that I’ve assigned a pretty decent share to the people whom I look up to—but I still find it fascinating that the same people who can text David Dorfman or even Trisha Brown (…I’m not sure Ms. Trish texts…I don’t know, maybe she does…) on a regular basis, also text me (…sometimes)—and we sit across the table from one another fairly regularly over coffee and a bagel.

I definitely don’t do that with Britney Spears, and it’s sort of on the same level…

Sorry if you’re one of those people I’m referring to and it’s now awkward. Actually, sorry I’m not sorry. I kind of really like you….sign my yearbook?

I think it’s again, one of those things that set dancers apart from other fields in higher education. Sure, there’s theory and conceptual thinking involved while sitting behind desks, but so much more of what we do is instant turnaround and application. 99.9% of the faculty are still active and contributing members within the larger community of dance, and people literally apply to work here just because of the names…but when I’m not improv’ing alongside those names in the studio, I get to sit in their offices and talk about hip-hop, glitter, and why/how the Magic 8 Ball really does provide the essential answers to life. That’s crazy talk.

…is the world going to end?

I just know that when I majored in Communications at MSU, I didn’t necessary know or even care who any of my professors were. It’s definitely all relative to the value one assigns to a particular field and their VIP’s, but I just have to say that it has yet to wear on me that I exist in an environment where I learn dance history from the people who are literally in the midst of making and recording the dance history of today.

On one hand, I find that the expectations I’ve set for myself (as a student, and in life) are directly correlated to the faculty’s level of success. I want to be one of those people working at a reputable school like Brockport, so that means I’ve got to work extra hard to stand firmly through the natural selection process that comes shortly after graduating; I will not work (…as in, refuse…) at the coffee shop I once dined at with said faculty.  I think it’s valid to set goals and aspirations above and beyond what’s simply passable; I want to be great at what I do, and I want to make a lasting difference before I kick it for good. I’ve realized that in a few short months, I’ll technically be able to apply for a job alongside these people who I so admire, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a competitive applicant just by default; I’ve got to account for the time in between where I gain the experience that makes me not only competitive, but a momentous force that can easefully roll with the BIG DOGS on a level playing field. What’s most important however is setting a realistic timeline, which I’ve demonstrated can be a little difficult when you’re a perfectionist that wants IT ALL RIGHT NOW.  I just wish that when faculty and I were having coffee, their successes (…and impressive vocabulary…acetabulum, for example) would just rub off on me free of charge…

On the other hand, these people who I look up to so much, give me the time of day because they see the potential for growth in what I have to offer right now in this very moment; they’re less worried about what I’ll be doing five years from now, and more interested in how my work is evolving today. My foundation has been set…THEY laid it over these past three’ish years—so at this point, their major objective is guiding my path in the way of self-assurance, it’s about time I own it. Nine times out of ten, I get a verbal slap on the wrist for expecting the world of myself over night; they say/imply that I need to chill out or something (…as if they know me…wait, THEY KNOW ME!) They totally know that I want their jobs one day, but they also know that I have a genuine interest in learning and improving—and that even though I’m a little star struck from time to time, way back when they were once in my shoes…

 We all have a Dumbledore…even Dumbledore has a Dumbledore…

So call me groupie, I don’t care—there’s literally no shame in my game!

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not-dance rules!!!

Going to see a non-dance related performance is such a simple way to find inspiration, DUH! It’s not all that of a mind-blowing idea…I just never took the time to put into words what happens to me at these events…

It doesn’t matter if it’s a Britney Spears concert or a symphony orchestra, the feeling that overwhelmingly consumes me sitting there in the audience is unlike anything I experience anywhere else; I believe this what they call ~*inspiration*~.

Without question, I always leave invigorated and inspired.

I sit there in the audience of these non-dance performances, watching these people perform their chosen art form with such passion and commitment, it makes me wish I had an outlet of my own to pour my soul into like these people have….but wait, I do…DUH!!!

Nine times out of ten, I tear up uncontrollably, and usually can’t name what’s going on as it’s happening. The kinesthetic response I experience at these events is just sointense

This feeling of inspiration is totally different from the feeling I get when watching really wonderful dance, however. When watching incredible modern dance, (because it also happens to be my craft), I tend to experience a wide-range of emotions, usually in the following order: excitement—jealousy—inspiration—defeat—jealousy—inspi…nope, still jealous….

My brain: I want to do that!!!!

The feelings I experienced last night at Musica Nova and Ossia at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, are what I’m sure non-dancers experience when they observe a modern dance concert. I felt anxious at times, confused at times, I found humor at questionably inappropriate times, I experienced moments of surprise, and shock, and I loved every moment of the unpredictable madness.

I watched this tiny girl perform the (comparatively enormous) cello with such concentration, I found myself wondering what it would be like to commit myself to something to fully.

Again, ‘light bulb city’ went off in my brain.DUH.

If I’ve completely lost you, I apologize—go see a non-dance performance, and then we’ll talk!

It’s so easy to get lost in the grind of your every day life, that what you once loved as a hobby (dance), has now become a task-oriented job. Well, it doesn’t HAVE to be this way…that’s the good news! The bad news is, you’ve got to free an entire evening of rehearsals to get yourself out there in the real world….and PUT SOME JEANS ON, TOO!!!

Last night when I was sitting there lost in my thoughts, listening to the music of Steve Reich, my conscious said “Maybe you should start doing things that make you happy…”, right there at the moment of thinking “happy”, the drum ensemble blew up into an explosion of sound. Subtle hint, I know…so now that I’ve shared that with you…

Enjoy your tears of inspiration!

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birthday inspiration

On February 29, 1988, I sat in my mother’s womb holding on for dear life. Even as a fetus, I knew that I needed attention more than just one day every four years, I needed a birthday EVERY year!!! My stubborn-ass won the war (as per usual), and at 8:45(ish)AM, I became a March 1’st Dyva-Baby!

So on this national holiday, I thought I’d share a few more Flecks of Inspiration with all of you…

First, I’d like to introduce my Hubby!!! He’s a junior at MSU (studying philosophy and dance) and is pretty much my soulmate. We share a love for all things Britney Spears (all Divas actually), deep philosophical life-chats, and Youtube. I woke up this morning to this little video-gem in my twitter inbox, and I thought it was way too precious to just keep to myself. Enjoy!!! (Note the blank-Britney stare and the Whitney-point..)

Not that anything could top that, but heres this fancy-little dress that I’d love to wear out as a Birthday-pricess.

imagine spinning circles in THIS baby

And one last fleck…

this cake definitely wouldn't kill the party

Theme: Every Dyva has their own special day, a day to celebrate all things and people that they love! So if you happen to share a Birthday with me (…yes, I’m talking to you Justin Bieber), HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

I head out to ACDFA bright and early tomorrow morning, hopefully this Birthday glitter-hangover won’t last too long!

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haterade rant

Let me first start by saying, there will eventually be a follow-up post to this one explaining all of the reasons why I love my background in studio dance…but until then, here’s this:

Sometimes I wish that I had skipped the sequins all together.

(Yes it made me who I am today…yes the relationships I made at the studio were incredible…yes I cried to my mom when I was 18 because I didn’t want to go to Michigan State…because I wanted to try out for SYTYCD and be a famous dancer, hip-shaking behind Britney Spears…blah blah blah….oh, and NO my experience was NOTHING like that embarrassing show…DANCE MOMS)

none of this Dance Moms nonsense…

What I’m talking about here is the level of my cognition as a 23 year old performer in the university setting. This week alone, I’ve had about six corrections specifically given to me that were centered around my performance quality and bodily awareness; please note that I was given these corrections AFTER a general announcement had already been made to the class. I genuinely had no idea I was doing any of these things wrong, and I literally could not feel the mistakes I was making…I have no problem getting corrections, but when it’s something that I should be sensing from within, I can’t help but get a little frustrated with myself.

I’ve begun to wonder what has happened to my bodily insight? (Have I ever had this kind of reflective awareness?)

“If you get lower and wider you’ll find more weight, and you’ll move quicker with more momentum.”

Ummmm, I’m the queen of groundedness…why am I not already doing this??? Oh yeah, because I’m trying to look like everyone else. What up competition large group?!?!? Can I get a 5-6-7-8…!!!

“Your arms are hitting a shape right now; it’s not about the position it’s about the energy behind it.”

Apparently I vogue in modern class, I don’t really know.

Because of my days (I mean years) as a Cecchetti princes, it took me a good three months to release the tension in my upper body, specifically in my sternum. My strict ballet training has definitely provided a strong and technical foundation, but at the same time, I learned to preclude any real mobility in my upper body because I was so afraid of what kind of damage breathing might do to my placement.

And then there’s choreography, I mean composition…need I say more? Theme and variation, music visualization, chance-dance….it’s all Japanese to me. Sometimes I just want to pantomime and gesture to my favorite pop songs while having a general shimmy as my through line.

sequins.shimmy.glitter.

Within the last three’ish years, the ability to just explore the possibilities of movement is also a new concept for me. Prior to my university classes, whenever I would hear the word improv, I immediately thought about what combinations I already knew and how I could reconstruct them…I needed to make myself look like the platinum winning dancer I already knew I was.

One last pity-cry…

I would love to just “walk” like a person instead of looking like a dancer trying to walk like a person. What happened to my ability to just be a human? Why is it the minute that I enter a studio, walking heel-first becomes a paralyzing concept?

(I’m being dramatic, I know…but please be aware that a mass-Happy Meal extravaganza occurred in my apartment late last night…)

It’s one of those weeks here in New York…I’ll get off my soapbox in a minute…

While studio-dance was my first introduction to dance period, there are times (like this week) that I wonder how my movement preferences would be different if I had skipped the 13-year glitter-fest? Would I even have an affinity for glitter….(gasp!!)? Because so much time was devoted to the end product and how to make all 25 dancers look identical, the rehearsal process was consumed by superficial placement and little to no emphasis on the actual body. Movement efficiency didn’t actually exist, and as long as you got your triple pirouette in, it didn’t matter what kind of hip-flexion you actually achieved. While I still fight for my commercial roots today, sometimes the well-educated dancer with less codified technique ends up winning the race.

I challenge Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms to start coaching her 5-year old hot-mamas to sense their weight and to use their skeletal alignment rather than their major muscles to push through space.

(B-Fri, if you read this…don’t hate me. YOU are the reason I still plié today!)

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