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The Representation of Dance in Australian Novels

The Darkness Beyond the Stage-Lit Dream

Melinda Jewell

This book is an analysis of the textual representation of dance in the Australian novel since the late 1890s. It examines how the act of dance is variously portrayed, how the word ‘dance’ is used metaphorically to convey actual or imagined movement, and how dance is written in a novelistic form. The author employs a wide range of theoretical approaches including postcolonial studies, theories concerned with class, gender, metaphor and dance and, in particular, Jung’s concept of the shadow and theories concerned with vision. Through these variegated approaches, the study critiques the common view that dance is an expression of joie de vivre, liberation, transcendence, order and beauty. This text also probes issues concerned with the enactment of dance in Australia and abroad, and contributes to an understanding of how dance is ‘translated’ into literature. It makes an important contribution because the study of dance in Australian literature has been minimal, and this despite the reality that dance is prolific in Australian novels.


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CHAPTER FOUR Social dance, class and gender 101


101 CHAPTER FOUR Social dance, class and gender Introduction Another type of dance, and the one most pervasively portrayed in Australian novels, is social dance. Balls and local ‘dances’ are preva- lent in late nineteenth- and early to mid-twentieth-century novels and in more contemporary novels these styles, along with dancing at dis- cos, nightclubs and raves are represented. Although different, these social styles amalgamate dancing and socialising, as opposed to per- formative or aesthetic forms of dancing (as discussed in the previous chapter). This conjunction of dancing and socialising, however, means the dancing of Aboriginal people at corroborees (as discussed in Chapter Two), of migrants of non-Anglo descent (discussed in the next chapter) or people dancing in their everyday surroundings (dis- cussed in Chapter Six) could be included in this chapter. Conversely, social dance styles such as the waltz or tango may occur in perform- ance settings (as in Marele Day’s The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado, 1992 or Sue Gough’s A Long Way to Tipperary, 1992). What distin- guishes the social dancing in this chapter is words such as ‘ball’, ‘dance’, ‘disco’ and ‘rave’ (words of European and American origin) and the depiction of occasions when characters specifically go out to an establishment to dance and meet and converse with others. The social dance as defined here has been occurring in Australia since white settlement. According to Nell Challingsworth, the crew of Captain Cook’s vessels are reported to have danced the Hornpipe on their voyage to Australia ‘evok[ing...

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