Approaching Dance: Young Muslim Women Reflect on Their Relationships to Dance as an Art Form

Ersöz A.

Turkish Studies, vol.16, no.2, pp.625-637, 2021 (SSCI)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 16 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.7827/turkishstudies.48890
  • Journal Name: Turkish Studies
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Historical Abstracts, Index Islamicus, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Political Science Complete, Public Affairs Index, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.625-637
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Muslim communities are growing in many Western countries, and the experience of being Muslim is intertwined with ethnic, religious and gender related issues. There has been an increase in research focusing on understanding the Muslim population's situation within Western societies after 9/11. A considerable number of studies, qualitative research and oral histories were conducted that extensively explore Muslim communities, particularly Muslim women's life experiences and perceptions living in predominantly Western countries. The research literature regarding young Muslim women's participation in bodily practices is predominantly confined to physical education courses, and extra-curricular activities during the subjects' secondary school education. Such research shows that young Muslim women can face particular problems when participating in physical activities because of religious and cultural restrictions. Nonetheless, it appears that there is a research gap regarding young Muslim women's relationship to dance as an artistic and/or recreational practice. The question such as what young Muslim women think of dance as a concept, artistic field, and bodily experience seems to be not included in the literature of dance studies and social sciences research. The author of this paper conducted a qualitative research study titled Muslim Female Students in Higher Education in the United States: Approaches to and Experiences of Dance and Embodied Performance between the years of 2016-2017 at Rutgers University in New Jersey USA. The study was supported by Turkish Fulbright Comission and approved by the Institutional Reviw Board (IRB), Office of Research and Regulatory Affairs Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University on October 14, 2016 with the protocol number 17-123. The aim of the study was to examine the role dance plays within the lives of Muslim female university students with a specific focus on young women age 18 to 24. In structuring the research study, the questions were framed to gather data regarding the following: the perceptions of young Muslim women regarding dance as an art form; their personal participation in dance as recreational and/or artistic expression; and their impressions and understanding of dance as a component of various religious, political, social, and cultural contexts in America. The research was conducted with 12 young Muslim female students from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who voluntarily participated in the study. The study intended to explore how the concept of dance art and its practices are realized, experienced, and negotiated within participants' daily religious practices and beliefs. The research revealed various approaches to dance, strictly connected to how Islam is understood and experienced by these young Muslim female students. Another important finding is that family relations and patriarchal understandings are also strong determinants of how dance is considered and experienced. Further research is required to uncover the patriarchal characteristics in the construction of bodily perception of young Muslim women.