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‘It has really amazed me what my body can now do’: boundary work and the construction of a body-positive dance community

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journal contribution
posted on 09.09.2015 by Joanne L. Hill, Rachel Sandford, Eimear Enright
Boundaries around normative embodiments in physical cultures can be exclusionary if one’s embodied identity does not ‘fit’. Normative boundaries are particularly marked in codified forms of dance such as ballet. Moves towards body-positivity aim to challenge these normative boundaries by redefining what dancers’ bodies can look like and how they should move. This paper stems from an appreciative inquiry undertaken with one such project, a gender-neutral, LGBTQ-friendly adult ballet school in the UK; a subcultural context that marks itself as distinct from broader cultures of dance. Interviews with learners are analysed through a Bourdieuian lens to explore the construction and maintenance of a body-positive subculture. Findings suggest that boundaries of ability were crossed, with celebration of all bodies’ capabilities, and boundaries of normative gender expression were transformed through a commitment to gender-neutrality and LGBTQ-friendly behaviours. However, boundaries around technical and aesthetic norms, while shifted or challenged, ultimately remained in place.


This work was sponsored by the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Sport in Society


HILL, J., SANDFORD, R.A. and ENRIGHT, E., 2016. ‘It has really amazed me what my body can now do’: boundary work and the construction of a body-positive dance community. Sport in Society, 19(5), pp.667-679.


Routledge (© Taylor & Francis)


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Sport in Society on 18 Aug 2015, available online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17430437.2015.1073946