The dancing body has undeniable appeal. The eye is drawn to Dancing on the Canon's sumptuous cover art with its interplay of red and cream, and an image of burlesque performer Amber Topaz in the guise of Jessica Rabbit. The cover of Sherril Dodds's 2011 monograph gives the impression Dancing on the Canon is a companion piece to, or a continuation of, Rachel Shteir's Striptease: the Untold History of the Girlie Show or Jacki Wilson's The Happy Stripper. The created communities of burlesque are only a small piece of the story, however, as Dancing on the Canon is as much an examination of how we talk about popular dance as it is an analysis of the twenty-first-century burlesque show, or the experiences of metal, ska, and punk fans, or the performance practices of the attendees of an over-40s dance night. The monograph occasionally ventures into the territory of academic memoir, detailing Dodds's varied experiences with popular dance and intellectual culture, from spending time in New York punk clubs in the 1970s and 1980s to her academic career and decade-long journey developing ways to position popular dance scholarship. In a nod to classic striptease, in the acknowledgments readers are given a glimpse of Dodds's burlesque life as Scarlett Korova and Emmental La Bouche, but, in striptease fashion, it is tucked away quickly and we must wait until page 108 for the Senior Lecturer to establish her identity as a burlesque dancer, choreographer, and producer—Dancing on the Canon is not a neo-burlesque version of Katherine Frank's "Stripping, Starving, & the Politics of Ambiguity."
Sinking into the introduction, we encounter anecdotes highlighting the politics and physical pleasures of dance, tassel twirling, and happiness, of being a dancing body on display for public consumption, celebrating sex and the performance of sexuality, the joy of sweat, and the sense of belonging inherent in dance communities.
Dancing on the Canon is divided into eight chapters split between two parts: "Understanding Value" and "Dancing Values." The two halves could have existed as individual texts, though they are linked by Dodds's journey and she injects her experiences into the arc of the text throughout. "Understanding Value," the [End Page 146] five-chapter first half of Dancing on the Canon, is dedicated to the exploration of value and theoretical frameworks through which popular dance may be analyzed from cultural studies perspectives, "in other words, how is [aesthetic, social, and economic] value danced?" (99). In her explanation of the first half of Dancing on the Canon, Dodds notes, "When I commenced work on this book . . . the concept of value as the principal research focus had not been developed . . . . It was only as I began to analyze the interview data from the punk, metal, and ska fans that the concept of value really emerged in relation to how they reflected on their dancing practices" (206).
The three chapters of Part II, "Dancing Values," involve our getting to meet individuals Dodds encountered during her research process, delving into their interconnected, overlapping social networks, and exploring the role dance plays in creation and expression of identities and communities. Dodds is tangentially or directly involved with two of the populations interviewed while conducting her qualitative research. (It was through a ska fan that Dodds gained entry into the British Caribbean dance club Sunday Serenade.) Dodds says she "did not intend to produce a model of value that could be consistently applied across popular dance practice" (204).
After the brief flash glimpsed in the introduction, burlesque makes its feature appearance in chapter six, "'Naughty but Nice': Re-Articulations of Value in Neo-Burlesque Striptease." While all of the populations of dancers featured in Dancing on the Canon engage in presenting created identities, unlike the Afro-Caribbean club dancers or the ska, punk, and metal fans, the burlesque dancers profiled do not have their masks stripped away. Dodds describes her sample population of burlesque performers as "predominantly white, educated women [whose] white, educated status...