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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers competition in second lining, an African American vernacular dance form that has accompanied brass band processions through New Orleans’s city streets since the late nineteenth century. It takes formal second line dance competitions as an entry point to examine the often tacit gendered biases that frame second lining’s social practice and reception. Women competitors surmise that, in order to win, they must “dance like a man.” And yet, such gendered discourses cannot fully account for the tactics employed by young women today. Featuring an ethnographic account of the First Annual Big Easy Footwork Competition, the author suggests two feminist frameworks for understanding female footwork artists’ dancing: the influence of double-dutch jump rope, and a theoretical framework that Imani Kai Johnson (2014) calls “badass femininity.” With each step, female footwork artists move within and beyond a gendered terrain in which dancing well means dancing like a man.

Keywords: African American, dance, New Orleans, second line, footwork, badass femininity, jump rope, double-dutch, gender

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