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Gender Equality 17/03/2017

The Etiquette of The Ballroom © Opernball Dance as sport has a rather unique history when it comes to the women’s role in it. After the Victorian era, at the turn of the 20th century, dancing shed itself of some of the rigid protocol that regulated the ballroom behaviour for both genders, but that did so much more restrictively for women.

“The conduct of parties attending a ball should be governed by such rules as shall insure the entire company an evening of pleasure,” was a concept no longer enforced as strictly as before.

Definitely not when it came to the mandatory white gloves worn by the gentleman. But the lady could still not ask a gentleman to dance – or be seen to cross the dancefloor unescorted.

In the 1910s and 20s, dance teachers went about defining the STANDARD for dances such as the Tango or the Waltz and thus laying the foundation to technical rules which would govern what was “competitive ballroom dancing” at the time.

These rules assigned distinct roles to each of the two partners comprising the dance couple. The gentleman was to “lead” and the lady to “follow” throughout the entire dance. Or as one female dancer put it, “The man decides where you’re going to go, when you’re going to go and how you’re going to go.”

That DanceSport never emancipated from this strict dichotomy of roles – that men are still assigned the dominant and women the submissive part in what is called “partner dancing” – makes two statements at once. The first is about the conservatism of certain sectors in a sport that evolves as much as others, but almost exclusively on the technical level, and the second is about the savvy as well as the social skills that a woman tends to bring to the interpretation of her role as “supporting actress.”

What allows women to humbly play out the part of a follower in every dance is their absolute confidence. Another female dancer is quoted earlier elaborates on this point too: “Who really looks at the guys on the floor? It’s their job to make us look good. We get all the accolades!”

Here we are: one of the sports with the longest tradition in promoting gender equality, with close to a century of experience in male and female athletes competing together on the same field of play, under the same rules, and for the same awards and titles! And – as we have demonstrated – with intelligent and socially skilled women in total parity with their male counterparts at one point in their careers!

So why do we have to struggle to meet gender quota in the leadership of DanceSport? There should be no reason. Why do we always put the man’s name before that of the woman whenever we speak of a couple, a small mixed-gender team?

Read more about gender equality in DanceSport in the 2017 GrandSlam Helsinki Magazine.

QOpmX1RjDEY|A Mixed Gender Sport | Really? | DanceSport Total