Playing with Pedagogy: Teaching Dance and Embracing Play as a Pedagogical Tool

  • Deanna PaolantonioEmail author


This chapter discusses the development and testing of a new approach to teaching dance to girls who are on the cusp of becoming teenagers through a specially designed program called Work It Out. Pedagogically Work It Out accounts for the performative nature of gender (Butler, 1990), and the prevalence of ‘beauty sickness’ among adolescent girls addresses these issues through embodied play. In this program, dance is designed to guide girls through a self-reflexive practice where their ideas about body image are expressed. This teaching strategy applies the inherently expressive nature of creative dance and choreography to assist girls in conveying their experience of girlhood and how it is affected or related to their bodies and body image. The contributions of this program to education are discussed in relation to the dance curriculum in Ontario, Canada, and current offerings for body image programming in schools.


  1. Aapola, S., Gonick, M., & Harris, A. (2005). Young femininity: Girlhood, power, and social change. Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Bettis, P. J., & Adams, N. G. (2005). Geographies of girlhood: Identities in-between. Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bettleheim, B. (1972). Play and education. American Journal of Education, 81(1), 1–13.Google Scholar
  4. Bordo, S. (2003). Unbearable weight: Feminism, western culture, and the body. University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Christensen, P., & James, A. (2008). Childhood diversity and commonality: Some methodological insights. In P. Christensen & A. James (Eds.), Research with children: Perspectives and practices (2nd ed., pp. 109–122). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Coulter, N. (2014). Tweening the girl: The crystallization of the tween market. Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  8. Daniels, D. B. (2009). Polygendered and ponytailed: The dilemma of femininity and the female athlete. Canadian Scholars’ Press.Google Scholar
  9. Keenan, E. K., & Darms, L. (2013). Safe space: The Riot Grrrl collection. Archivaria, 76, 55–74.Google Scholar
  10. Dove Canada. (2017). Dove self esteem project. Unilever Canada Inc. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from
  11. Driscoll, C. (2002). Girls: Feminine adolescence in popular culture and cultural theory. Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Eisner, E. (2002). Arts and the creation of mind. London and New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Eisner, E. (2006). Does arts-based research have a future? Inaugural lecture for the first European conference on arts-based research Belfast, Northern Ireland, June 2005. Studies in art Education, 48(1), 9–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Engeln-Maddox, R. (2005). Cognitive responses to idealized media images of women: The relationship of social comparison and critical processing to body image disturbance in college women. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(8), 1114–1138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erikson, E. (1950). Childhood and society: The landmark work on the social significance of childhood. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.Google Scholar
  16. Foster, S. (1997). Dancing bodies. In J. Desmond (Ed.), Meaning in motion: New cultural studies of dance (pp. 235–257). Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21(2), 173–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Giguere, M. (2011). Social influences on the creative process: An examination of children’s creativity and learning in dance. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 12.Google Scholar
  19. Girls on the Run (GOTR)™. (2017). Girls on the Run. Retrieved January 3, 2017, from
  20. Gonick, M. (2005). From nerd to popular? Refiguring school identities and transformation stories. In J. Reid-Walsh (Ed.), Seven going on seventeen: Tween studies in the culture of girlhood (Vol. 245). Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  21. Harris, A. (2004). All about the girl: Culture, power, and identity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Henley, M. (2014). Sensation, perception, and choice in the dance classroom. Journal of Dance Education, 14(3), 95–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R., & Nixon, R. (2014). The action research planner: Doing critical participatory action research. Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  24. Lykes & Hershberg. (2007). Participatory action research and feminisms: Social inequalities and transformative praxis. In Hesse-Bibler (Ed.), Handbook of feminist research II: Theory and practice (pp. 331–367). Sage.Google Scholar
  25. McNeill, W. (2008). Keeping together in time: Dance and the drill in human history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. McRobbie, A. (1994). Shut up and dance: Youth culture and changing modes of femininity. Cultural Studies, 7(3), 406–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mitchell, C., & Reid-Walsh, J. (2005). Theorizing tween culture within girlhood studies. Counterpoints, 245, 1–21. In J. Reid-Walsh (Ed.), Seven going on seventeen: Tween studies in the culture of girlhood (Vol. 245). Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  28. Nieri, T., & Hughes, E. (2016). All about having fun: Women’s experience of Zumba fitness. Sociology of Sport Journal, 33(2), 135–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. O’Flynn, G., Pryor, Z., & Gray, T. (2013). Embodied subjectivities: Nine young women talking dance. Journal of dance Education, 13(4), 130–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ornstein, P. (1994). Introduction: The bad news about good girls. In SchoolGirls: Young women self esteem and the confidence gap. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  31. Phipher, M. (1994). Reviving ophelia: Saving the selves of the adolescent girl. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  32. Pomerantz, S. (2008). Girls, style, and school identities: Dressing the part. Springer.Google Scholar
  33. Stinson, S. (2015). Searching for evidence: Continuing issues in dance education research. Research in Dance Education, 16(1), 5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Welter, B. (1966). The cult of true womanhood: 1820–1860. American Quarterly, 18(2), 151–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wolf, N. (2002). The beauty myth. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations