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UAL Research Online

Growing Old Gracefully: Social Dance in the Third Age

Thomas, Helen and Cooper, Lesley (2002) Growing Old Gracefully: Social Dance in the Third Age. Ageing and Society, 22 (6). pp. 689-708. ISSN 14691779

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Thomas, Helen and Cooper, Lesley

This paper, one of the first on dance in Ageing & Society, resulted from a one-year funded qualitative research project (AHRB; MRG-AN43/49/APN10994), which identified and interrogated the meanings of social dance as a cultural practice for older people. It analyses how embodied aesthetics created on the dance floor can impact positively on the individuals’ perception of self and cultural location. The paper focuses on observations and analysis of a weekly ‘social dance’ event in south east London, where social ballroom and modern sequence dancing are practised and a weekly ‘official’ modern sequence dance club in Essex. Dancing was video-recorded, edited and then taken back to the participants, which elicited data for further analysis (Thomas and Cooper 2003). The evidence was then situated within broader analytic frames: social theories of ageing (Thompson 1990), ideas about community and ‘communitas’ (Turner 1974) and bodily ‘habitus’ and taste (Bourdieu 1984).

The authors acknowledge that dance can highlight failing bodies as well as active, vital ones. However, this work challenged existing studies which focus on loss of function and negativity or the imbalance in dance and cultural studies on which overwhelmingly privilege the aesthetic embodied practices of younger social groups.

Analysis of evidence revealed, conclusively, that social dancing for these participants can provide ‘continuity within change’; the opportunity for positive self and external images of older people, located in the present and future, as well as their past; a public space that is bound by dance not age; a forum to become visible and aesthetically ‘pleasing’ to and for each other and a sense of pride in acquiring new skills which help to compensate for the loss of other forms of capital and prestige which can become concomitant with ageing.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: RAE2008 UoA63
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Other Affiliations > RAE 2008
Date: 1 January 2002
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1017/S0144686X02008929
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2009 23:45
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2011 08:57
Item ID: 1711
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1711

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