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The Pilates Pelvis: Racial Implications of the Immobile Hips

Abstract

This article examines the treatment of the pelvis in the Pilates exercises “Single Leg Stretch” and “Leg Circles.” The teaching practices of the hips, as commonly explained in Pilates educational manuals, reinforce behaviors of a noble-class and racially “white” aesthetic. Central to this article is the troubling notion of white racial superiority and, specifically, the colonizing, prejudicial, and denigrating mentality found in the superiority of whiteness and its embodied behaviors. Using the two Pilates exercises, I illuminate how perceived kinesthetic understandings of race in the body may be normalized and privileged. By examining the intersections between dance and Pilates history, this article reveals the ways embodied discourses in Pilates are “white” in nature, and situates Pilates as a product of historically constructed social behaviors of dominant Anglo-European culture.

This article examines the treatment of the pelvis in the Pilates exercises “Single Leg Stretch” and “Leg Circles.” The teaching practices of the hips, as commonly explained in Pilates educational manuals, reinforce behaviors of a noble-class and racially “white” aesthetic. Central to this article is the troubling notion of white racial superiority and, specifically, the colonizing, prejudicial, and denigrating mentality found in the superiority of whiteness and its embodied behaviors. Using the two Pilates exercises, I illuminate how perceived kinesthetic understandings of race in the body may be normalized and privileged. By examining the intersections between dance and Pilates history, this article reveals the ways embodied discourses in Pilates are “white” in nature, and situates Pilates as a product of historically constructed social behaviors of dominant Anglo-European culture.

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Mary C. Beltrán 2002. “The Hollywood Latina Body as Site of Social Struggle: Media Constructions of Stardom and Jennifer Lopez's ‘Cross-Over’ Butt.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 19(2): 7186.

Melissa Blanco Borelli . 2009. “A taste of honey: Choreographing mulatta in the Hollywood dance film.” International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media 5(3): 141–53.

Paul Connerton . 1989. How Societies Remember. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Maria P. Figueroa 2003. “Resisting ‘Beauty’ and Real Women Have Curves.” In Velvet Barrios, edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba , 265–82. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Brenda Dixon Gottschild . 2003. The Black Dancing Body: A Geography from Coon to Cool. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Marshall Hagins , Keri Adler , Michael Cash , Julie Daugherty , and Gayle Mitrani . 1999. “Effects of Practice on the Ability to Perform Lumbar Stabilization Exercises.” Journal of Orthopedic Sports Therapy 29(9): 546–55.

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Dance Research Journal
  • ISSN: 0149-7677
  • EISSN: 1940-509X
  • URL: /core/journals/dance-research-journal
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