Dancing and gender
in Being boys
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Chapter 6 asks how youthful masculinities were performed, constructed and contested in sexualised leisure locales such as the dance hall – like letters to advice columnists, an expressive outlet more usually perceived in relation to young women. It traces the implications of how social dancing changed over the interwaryears, from that of the 1920s, which subverted traditional notions of male physicality, to the shaping effects of the sexualising modernity increasingly apparent in the 1930s. The exhibitions and inhibitions of these dance hall cultures reinforced and contested traditional gender expectations and assumptions. Social dancing presented a disturbing ‘otherness’ of gender, race and class which challenged traditional notions of masculinity and Englishness, as was apparent in the dance profession's attempts to restrain the easy-going ‘oppositional’ spontaneity of dance styles in the 1920s with dignity and manly restraint. Concerns about dancing reflected the same worries about eroding traditional values so apparent in the boys' club movement, and both moral and commercial interests sought to regulate it for their own reasons, although young men's relationship with social dancing was more varied than is often assumed.

Being boys

Youth, leisure and identity in the inter-war years


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