Research shows there are ten features of objectification, seven of which were listed by Nussbaum in 1995 including instrumentality, denial of autonomy, inertness, fungability, violability, ownership and denial of subjectivity. In 2009, Langton added three more features to identify objectification; reduction to body, reduction to appearance and silencing. In short, “to objectify is make into and treat something that is not an object as an object, which can be used, manipulated, controlled, and known through its physical properties” (Calogero, 2012, p.574).

Specific to dance, where the dancers’ body is used as an instrument to fulfil artistic intent, Tiggerman and Slater (2001) used a test model, created through research into objectification theory, on former classical ballet students and 51 undergraduate college students to discover more about the role (self) objectification and the consequences that ensue within these contexts. It was brought to light that the dancers, in comparison to non-dancers, scored higher on the disordered eating, self-surveillance and self-objectification, which was found to be mediated by body shame and appearance anxiety.

A similar study was carried out by Downs et al (2006) who investigated 43 college women and 40 female exotic dancers. Each participant completed a questionnaire that related to body objectification and self-esteem. Similar to former ballet dancers (Tiggerman and Slater, ibid), exotic dancers were subject to greater body shame, self-esteem and paid more attention to their physical attributes instead of their intellect. In opposition, college women were proven to prioritise physical competence over physical attractiveness. This is not surprising considering exotic dancers, like ballet dancers, earn a living from their appearance. A note drawn from an exotic dancer suggests that performers are comfortable with their objectification because it is their sole role to use their body as a visual tool to fulfil the gaze of the onlooker. A dancer expands:

The hardest part of the job was dealing with my feminist principles concerning the objectification of women. Dancing nude is the epitome of women as sex objects. As the weeks passed, I found I liked being a sex object, because the context was appropriate. I resent being treated as a sex object on the street or at the office. But as an erotic dancer, that is my purpose. I perform to turn you on, and if I fail, I feel I’ve done a poor job. (Sundahl, 1987, p. 176) (p.745).

The statement above brings focus to how objectification is reinterpreted in the context of dance. Cvejic (2015) unravels this complexity further through exploring European contemporary dance works that have interrupted traditional performance making practices. Such as, experimenting and bringing light to the complexities of bodies in motion, how audiences might receive movement and how solo artists negotiate their subjectivity. In discussion of the solo work 50/50, Cvejic (2015) agrees with the notion that solo practice is a format to truly understand and present self to audiences. It is a space of individual subjectivism.  However, even in solo performance, it is not uncommon, according to Cvejic that the subject must interiorize emotion in order to complete the artistic process. What this means is that, even though the solo performer maintains a tremendous amount of control over the process, the audience comes first. The audience cannot see the works for what it is intended to be if the performer lets their current state interfere with the state in which the work was produced. This means, if I was to create a work in an elated state, then perform it on day were I had received bad news, I would have to somehow perform in that “elated” state and thus ignore my subjectivity. Thus, when choreographer and performer of an artefact exist in the same body, a complexity of subjectivity and self- objectification occurs.

Something I have created this week is this short video for Pole Purpose where I talk about ways to improve creativity in dance / pole dance. Come to think of it, these tips are totally valid ways of experiencing more subjectivity in dance too. The main points are to forget about the spectacle of your art, create for yourself and not your audience and try to reframe your perception of what you think your art is.

I will be back with more notes next week, but in the meantime, you can see my daily updates by following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook

Rowena x