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Title: Social dance and wellbeing : an ethnographic study of two folk social dance settings
Author: Kiddy, Paul
ISNI:       0000 0004 6058 2209
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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Sociable folk dancing in the UK is an organised group activity in which a significant number of people take part, often practising folk styles which have their origins in other countries. These groups are generally not run for profit, operate under the radar of media attention, and consequentially their activities remain largely hidden from view. This thesis addresses the fact that there have been no in-depth studies of these groups. It reports on the findings of a detailed ethnographic research project, to offer in-sights into the practices and motivations of participants in social dance. The thesis answers the key question: ‘What is the meaning and significance of participation in these folk music and social dance styles to those taking part?’. An interdisciplinary and ethnographic research approach was adopted to investigate two such folk styles: Cajun and Zydeco, and Scandinavian. This approach allowed research participants to make a significant contribution to the focus of the research, and to inform the subsidiary questions: ‘What are the concerns and interests of those involved in social folk dance?’, ‘What is it that makes involvement in these dance practices so appealing?’, and ‘What are the overall benefits of being involved?’ The research produced an interpretive account of these practices, through investigating sites of participation in these dance styles in the UK, which were explored by means of immersive involvement in their dance practices. This gave an insight into the way in which participation was organised and managed, and allowed for introductions to be made which were followed up with thirty in-depth interviews. The study revealed that despite the stylistic differences between the two dance styles and how they are practised, both nevertheless benefitted participants in similar ways. That dance events are organised on a not-for-profit basis was particularly important to participants, and encouraged loyalty and cooperation, promoting feelings of empowerment and ownership. An atmosphere of supportive inclusion was also built in to the loose organisation of events and activities, which allowed a consensus to develop where social attitudes and ideas could be negotiated, cultivated, and shared. This created a sense of belonging to an unboundaried, and fluid community or social network, a safe environment in which participants were able to experience dance as a communicative and expressive dialogue between individuals and within the group. This thesis argues that participants found their involvement in these dance styles socially and personally satisfying, and that this made a considerable contribution to their individual wellbeing. The research found that sociable folk dancing served as a vehicle for community, improving participants’ sense of self-worth, supporting creativity, and well-being. These findings complement clinical research that champions dance, and social dance in particular, as a healthy and worthwhile leisure activity. This thesis supports the results of such scientific studies into the benefits of dance by providing supporting evidence from within a social setting. This has implications for further research, and for policy and practice, whether dance activities are pursued formally or informally and whatever their aim.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: GN Anthropology ; GV Recreation Leisure ; HT Communities. Classes. Races ; M Music