Voicing Lyrical Dance: (Re)Considering Lyrical Dance And Dance Hierarchy


Lyrical dance intertwines fluid movement aesthetics, emotional narratives, and musicality within competition and commercial dance contexts. However, dance scholars tend to criticize lyrical dance, both directly and indirectly, perceiving it as over-the-top yet underdeveloped. When making such statements, they implicitly contrast lyrical dance with “high art” values that privilege a particular mode of “meaning-making” as rooted in the canon of concert dance forms, such as modern and ballet. However, lyrical dance does not prioritize elements of “high art,” meaning that these scholars critique lyr- ical dance more for what it is not. My research, in response, challenges such hierarchical biases by understanding lyrical dance from the perspectives of those who practice it. With IRB-approval, I conducted interviews with ten lyrically trained dancers from both private-sector, competition dance studios and collegiate dance departments in Southern California. My findings assess lyrical dance’s values regarding expression, “freedom,” connectivity, and affirmation of skill—focusing on the latter for the sake of this article—recognizing that lyrical dancers actively shape each value through their dedication to lyrical dance practices. By voicing the lyrical dancers’ perspectives and their reasons for embracing the practice, I aim to show the need to reconsider lyrical dance on its own terms, challenging persisting critiques within scholarship

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Last time updated on October 16, 2020

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