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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Although hip-hop battles produce “winners,” these competitions also produce “losers” who fail to make it through to the next round or win the overall contest. This chapter argues that the face plays a significant role both in strategizing toward victory and in revealing loss. The research arises from an ethnographic study of hip-hop dancers in the Philadelphia area, and examines the deployment of the face as a choreographic tool in the dance battle. Within these contests, dancers utilize the face to provoke embodied modes of intimidation and derision to support their desire to win; however, they also conceive the face as a legible marker of weakness and loss. The chapter draws upon hip-hop and sports scholarship to explore how dancers negotiate the competition paradigm and concludes that a “loss of face” becomes an essential component of battle knowledge.

Keywords: hip-hop, dance, dance battle, face, intimidation, sports

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