Dance to the drummer’s beat: competing tastes in international B-Boy/B-Girl culture
Fogarty, Mary Elizabeth
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This thesis explores the relationship between musical tastes and dance practices in a popular dance style known as breaking or b-boying/b-girling. It is based on a multi-sited ethnography involving the participation in and observation of the practices of breaking, as well as interviews with individual b-boys and b-girls, who often travelled between cities as part of their practices. Although there were many interesting and contradictory observations and participant responses provided by this multigenerational, multicultural scene, one theme emerged as central. 'Vernacular' or street dancers make consistent claims that "it's all about the music." This is to challenge assumptions in current academic writing on the relationship of music and dance. On one hand, many contemporary dance writers argue that musical tastes have little to do with choreographic practices and the meanings of dance performances. On the other hand, sociological accounts of musical tastes rarely consider dance practice in their analyses. The result is that musical tastes are under-theorised in accounts of dance performance, and vice versa. Hennion's (2007) assertion that taste is an activity provides a foundation for a new argument. I propose that taste is an activity that, when theorised in terms of music and dance practices, suggests new epistemological avenues for studies of popular dance. Put simply, I argue that, in breaking practices, dance is a performance of musical taste. This performance of taste has a variety of avenues - from hip hop theatre performances, to international battles, master class workshops, club nights and local events – and in each new context, the relationship between music and dance transforms. These shifts in selection reveal that the dance is not just “about the music,” but also about how tastes are mediated, negotiated and competed over.