8:00pm-9:30pm (following Conference Dinner)

Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts
Studio B (MW 247)

Dr. Mary Fogarty, York University
What makes a man break? Masculinity, Ageing and Aesthetic Choices


Breaking performances are described in terms of ‘machismo’, or a ‘masculine aesthetic,’ by the majority of scholars to date. Machismo is a derogatory term “that presumes to be a concept” (Ramirez 2008) and is a forceful kinaesthetic descriptor for the gestures, body language, attitudes and interpretations of breaking’s perceived, masculine, hetero-normative dance practice. This talk addresses the perceived ‘machismo’ aesthetic of the dance practice through an exploration of its historical trajectory, moving from its 1970s birth to our current moment. In the 1980s, when the dance itself was young, the notion of B-boys dancing in their thirties and forties was unimaginable. Yet today, B-boys are breaking well into their late thirties and forties. Changes have occurred in the performances by these B-boys.

The historical formation of the dance occurred at the intersection of race, gender and age—it was a racialized cultural practice mostly for young men. Formed in a crucible of race, gender and age, key aesthetic features of the dance – such as its valorization of machismo—persist even as bodies and contexts change dramatically. This talk seeks to rethink gender performances in breaking, and of its ‘masculine’ aesthetic in relationship to a feminist, b-girl perspective and is based on research from longitudinal (classic) ethnographic projects that began in 2004.

This is my final public presentation about my research on breaking as my new research interests and projects are now well underway; a fitting ending as I gave some of my earliest presentations about breaking in St. Catharines over ten years ago as a graduate student.



Mary Fogarty is Associate Professor of Dance at York University, Toronto, Canada. She is co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Dance Studies with Imani Kai Johnson (forthcoming) and Movies, Moves and Music: The Sonic World of Dance Films (2016) with Mark Evans. She has chapters in The Routledge Reader on the Sociology of Music (2015), The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (2015) and Ageing and Youth Cultures (2012) among other publications. Fogarty has collaborated with neuroscientists to scan expert b-boy brains (Neurocase, 2014), written about the struggles of independent dance artists for EQ Magazine ( and addressed the experiences of b-girls for Canada’s national Dance Current Magazine (2015). Her new research project addresses the posture of surgeons and nurses, the sociology of breathing, and scientific claims about the spine.





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