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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Dancing out of place : geographies of performance and Vancouver's independent nightlife Boyd, Jade Lanore


This thesis draws upon an interdisciplinary approach characteristic of a performance perspective to examine the ways in which performances of identity and belonging are constituted through social dance, play and the engagement of city space. The study is based upon detailed observational and participatory data gathered over the course of one year (2005-2006) while attending indie dance parties within the urban centre of East Vancouver. The research follows the movement of Vancouver's artist-identified youth who strive to create something outside of the 'big-business' dance clubs that occupy the city of Vancouver's appointed entertainment district, weaving together an alternate, complex and mobile portrait of the city in play. The thesis begins with the concept of the mainstream and argues that though the concept manifests sometimes as an ambiguous construct that indie youth define themselves against, the mainstream is much more than an imaginary entity. The mainstream is both material and geographical while the relationship between dominant culture and some youth subcultures are mutually dependent. The concept of social space features prominently within the thesis; interviewees constitute themselves in relation to what it means to be 'in' and 'of' East Vancouver, revealing their identities as closely tied to place and also to social class. Identities are not only acquired negatively (in opposition), but are also positively acquired, through constitutive practices. Noting that social class is materially based, I argue that it is also both performed and performative, as a persistent mode of distinction within the indie scene. These complexities of performance are approached through the rubric of social dancing, a playful yet grounded practice that is productive precisely because it enables analyses that are at the same time social, spatial and embodied. Indie dance events offer the opportunity to connect participants to place (East Vancouver) and through body movement (dancing) to reaffirm membership in this group.

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