My feild site is located in the 舞燃情 dance studio behind the 海淀 theatre, about three subway stops away from the 五道口 station. I chose this site in order to get a better idea of what the general philosophical viewpoint towards modesty and its interactions in ballroom dance is in China.
As one of the aspects of personal appearance that is most easily controlled, clothing can speak volumes. In the four visits I’ve paid to my field site so far I’ve noticed a few key differences between what I’ve observed here and my own previous experiences with ballroom culture.
When it comes to modesty, clothing and dress is one of the most common and prominent modes of expression in almost any culture. With the observations that I’ve made at my field site thus far, clothing has played an especially noticeable role in social interaction/public appearances. The first time I visited the studio, I observed a swing class of young girls maybe ages 8-10. Most of them wore pieces of what might be considered costumes for a performance, and all of them wore skirts. One girl wore a fringe dress that seemed a little too grown up for someone her age to be wearing. However, this I can somewhat reconcile with the fact that the notion of young children participating in the more racy aspects of ballroom dance (certain dances, moves, costumes, etc.) is also something of a controversial topic in the United States. As noted in my field journal, it turned out to be another girl’s outfit that caught my attention with something that wasn’t quite noticeable at first. In my own experience with ballroom, it’s customary for women to wear bloomer shorts underneath especially swingy skirts so that when the skirt swings outward the underwear, buttox, and a minimal amount of leg remain covered. To break this rule is considered something of a social faux pas. As I observed this class, however, I became aware that one of the girls’ bloomer shorts left much of her backside exposed, not covering the legs at all. This shocked me – the only other context in which I’ve witnessed this was from a grown woman at a social dance in Washington DC. Consequently, I was left somewhat uncomfortable but silently took note.
In any case,
Conversation with Sydney