By Allison J Carr
I found myself sitting alone at a table for a moment. A young looking dancer, around 20 I guess, came and sat with me and we chatted. I talked about my research. She pressed me for a private dance with her. I look in my purse, two ten-pound notes were left, enough for another dance, but I do not want to spend the money. She remembers what I just told her about my research and she used it to convince me to dance with her. She is a mirror; she knew how to work me, to be what I want. I cannot find a reason not to have a dance with her. When she danced it is a less intense experience. She kissed me on the cheek at the end; a goodbye. This is a strange moment, I was not in control, I got a dance, but I did not want to. Afterwards I realised I did not ask her her name. I know nothing about her. I do not really enjoy this interaction.
The club felt empty and we realise it must be near closing time. The dancers were leaving, the punters had left. As we walk up the stairs to leave, Leanne is ahead of us. She is in a tracksuit and cap and she does not look back. As we got to the door, some of the dancers were clustered round, chatting, waiting for taxis. Leanne has gone. I felt strange. I never said a last thank you and goodbye. The rules of engagement across the entire evening were so strange, so different to what I am used to. My usual boundaries did not apply—to an extent my gaze and desire was a non-fit, this place was not designed to facilitate encounters for me, but that did provide a space for me to transgress. That was certainly exciting.
This is the nearest I have ever come to imagining, feeling, experiencing what it must be like to be a man. I guess I was uncertain as to whether I would encounter any women with self-possession, dominion over her body, her touch, her looks but I did. Throughout my research I have to negotiate my own boundaries and ambivalences. Watching women perform as objects is a strange terrain to navigate, and elsewhere I have written about the moments when I have felt discomfort. I have to emphasise that across this evening there were such a wide range of approaches to being a dancer that I cannot generalise. Different approaches to style, dress, performance, interaction, flirtation, communication I cannot make any universal statement. Each dancer represented different levels of object and subject. However, living and working without shame, shameless display and embodiment is important work and there were women that evening that demonstrated that.
Thank you, Leanne and Aurora.
Alison J Carr is finalising her practice-led Fine Art PhD at Sheffield Hallam University. She completed her MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in 2009 and BA (Hons) Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University in 2001. Her practice takes a number of forms:photography, video, performance and writing.
Her research; How do I look? investigates her own modes of viewing showgirls,putting this into a critical context. Her approach involves watching shows, from large-scale Parisian spectacles to burlesque cabarets as well as interviewing showgirls of all kinds. For more information see alisonjcarr.net