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Impossible Dance

Club Culture and Queer World-Making

Fiona Buckland

Publication Year: 2002

"Impossible Dance is a highly accessible, original and engaging account of the complex and often heavily theorized debates around the body, identity and community. Focusing on gay, lesbian and queer club culture in the 1990s New York City, this is the first book to bring together vital issues such as dance culture, queer community, sex culture, HIV identity and politics. Based on four years of field work, the book takes readers on a journey from the streets of New York City into the dance clubs and onto the dance floor. Detailed interviews with club-goers capture their perspectives on how they stage their self-fashioning through dancing. Fiona Buckland argues that such dancing embodies and rehearses a powerful political imagination, laying claim to the space and to one's body as queer."--Publishers Weekly

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I would like to thank Jos

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pp. xi-xxiv

...Gay speakeasies flourish and tend to be very safe because they have to be clandestine. After Franklin Roosevelt ends prohibition in 1933, they are replaced by a constantly changing constellation of gay bars, which, because they are more open, are...

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INTRODUCTION Impossible Dance

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pp. 1-15

ASA TEEN, the most explosive fights I ever had with my mother were about footwear. She wanted me to have sensible—but feminine—shoes. I wanted boots. But not just any boots: ankle boots with strong laces and chunky rubber soles that sprung my energy back through me when my...

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pp. 16-35

EVERYBODY IN NEW YORK seems to come from somewhere else. It gives the city its energy and a living library of stories. Roberto "Tito" Mesa came to New York City in the early 1970s from his native Argentina, where he was persecuted for being gay. Now in his fifties, he is a talking and dancing book of gay club history in the city. Soon after his arrival...

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2 THE CURRENCY OF FABULOUSNESS Fashioning the Self, Fashioning the Lifeworld

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pp. 36-64

DANCE CLUBS —MOST ESPECIALLY queer dance clubs—were spaces to be fabulous. In these spaces, participants felt encouraged to fashion themselves and to realize their imaginative possibilities through dress, bearing, social interactions, and dance. Why queer dance clubs especially...

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3 SLAVES TO THE RHYTHM? Using Music, Space, Composition, and the Ideas of the Body

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pp. 65-85

NOW WE ARRIVE at the dance floor—the end of the yellow brick road. The music throbs around us. In front of us all, movement. It seems indecipherable, fearsome, thrilling. We sure ain't in Kansas anymore. How did the sound and movement contribute to the construction, articulation...

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4 THE ORDER OF PLAY Choreographing Queer Politics

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pp. 86-110

OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED by the limits of our imagination. When I reflect upon the stories of informants and their relationships—imagined and realized—with others in the club, a complex, sometimes contradictory texture of desire and reality-making emerges. Some participants wanted to...

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5 ONLY WHEN I LOSE MYSELF IN SOMEONE ELSE Desire, Mimesis, and Transcendence

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pp. 111-127

ONE OF THE MOST famous descriptions of dancing suggests that it is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. I want to explore more particularly how individuals learned how to be with others on the dance floor and in a queer lifeworld through practices of...

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CLOSER Crackdown, Community, and the Physicality of Queerness

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pp. 128-158

A DANCE SPACE always exists on license. Nightlife is a third space where participants come together, sometimes in the hope of building lifeworlds. Was this the reason why, despite the great financial and cultural capital clubs brought to New York City, they were being cracked...

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7 MR. MESA'S TICKET Memory and Dance at the Body Positive T-Dance

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pp. 159-184

TITO MESA HAS been living with HIV and AIDS since 1985. On one of the last warm October evenings of 1997, we sat together in his East Village studio apartment, and drank tea surrounded by the accumulated artifacts of his fifty years. They included a photograph of his drag alterego, Monique; his collection of home-made fans for dancing; and a Tibetan monk's skull, inlaid with silver eyes, ears, and nose. When he gently prized open the flip-top skull, small bits of colored paper spilt...


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pp. 185-200


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pp. 201-206


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pp. 207-214


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pp. 215-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780819570543
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819564979

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 728227819
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Impossible Dance

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Subject Headings

  • Lesbian community -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Gay discotheques -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Gay community -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Gays -- New York (State) -- New York -- Identity.
  • Lesbians -- New York (State) -- New York -- Identity.
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