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Constructing community: the symbols of social power in competitive clogging in the Intermountain West of the United States

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posted on 2023-02-24, 19:12 authored by Gary J Larsen
This study, one of the few academic analyses of the socio-cultural aspects of contemporary competitive clogging, briefly summarises the history of group clogging from its rural beginnings in the Southeastern Appalachian Mountains to one of its many contemporary manifestations, that of competitive clogging in the Intermountain West of the United States. During its journey from a rural, local expression to a national practice, clogging experienced processes of standardisation, institutionalisation, transformation, appropriation and competition. These processes were influenced by cultural brokers, individuals and organisations that variously exerted social power in shaping the history, traditions, technique and the participatory and performative contexts of the dance. This objective of this study is to examine the America On Stage (AOS) organisation as a cultural broker by investigating its efforts to build and maintain a community of clog dancers in the Intermountain West. The principal findings of this study are grounded in the understanding that AOS is a competition-sanctioning organisation with stated motivations of spreading clogging and strengthening dance studios in the Intermountain West. In order to achieve success in these aims, AOS undertakes deliberate activities and initiatives to promote, stabilise, and energise perceptions of community and membership among participants. These include: 1) the creation and distribution of symbolic representations of identity, 2) the sponsorship of the means of production and mise en scene for pragmatic performance (competition), 3) the dissemination of culturally significant aesthetics through the All-Around Solo programme, and 4) the assignment of value to symbolic representations delivered therein (adjudication). As a cultural broker, AOS succeeds in creating an expansive, cohesive community in many ways; the appealing iconography it projects both internally and externally attracts young, technology-savvy dancers, and its awards structure is particularly motivating. However, AOS policies are limited in other significant ways, including: 1) an institiutionalised aesthetic and loss of regional diversity 2) the hierarchisation of competition 3) limited, sustained social interaction and ‘mutually affirming engagement’, and 4) an absence of recreational options that enable enduring participation and community reification.

History

Faculty

  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Degree

  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Catherine E Foley

Note

peer-reviewed

Language

English

Department or School

  • Irish World Academy of Music & Dance

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