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date: 30 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that throughout the film, Dirty Dancing, Francis “Baby” Houseman’s dancing allows her to embody normative femininity and achieve sexualized womanhood. This gendered coming of age is made possible through her performance of racially marked dance forms such as the mambo. Placing Dirty Dancing in dialogue with the socio-cultural milieu of the early 1960s, the time period in which the film is set, as well as with the 1980s, the period of the film’s production, this chapter analyzes how the filming, narrative, and dancing intersect to produce Baby’s ascent to adulthood. To visually present this process, different types of camera shots highlight emotion, the work of dance, and sexuality. Through editing, the dancing scenes and bodies are further fragmented. Borrowing associations between romance and dance from film musicals, this dance film presents characters exceeding the boundaries of narrowly defined cultural identities based on class and ethnicity.

Keywords: dance film, femininity, normative, mambo, racially marked, cultural identities, class, ethnicity

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