The Bodies of Others

Drag Dances and Their Afterlives
Selby Wynn Schwartz


The Bodies of Others explores the politics of gender in motion. From drag ballerinas to faux queens, and from butoh divas to the club mothers of modern dance, this book delves into four decades of drag dances on American stages, tracing the ways in which bodies can be imagined otherwise. Drag dances take us beyond glittery one-liners and into the spaces between gender norms. In these backstage histories, we see dancers who give their bodies over to other selves, opening up the category of realness.

When realness becomes a practice, dancing can become a way of restaging the histories of bodies. The book maps out a drag politics of embodiment, connecting drag dances to queer hope, memory, and mourning. There are aging étoiles, midnight shows, mystical séances, and all of the dust and velvet of divas in their dressing-rooms. But these forty years of drag dances are also a cultural history, including Mark Morris dancing the death of Dido in the shadow of AIDS, and the swans of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo sketching an antiracist vision for ballet. Drawing on queer theory, dance history, and the embodied practices of dancers themselves, The Bodies of Others examines the ways in which drag dances undertake the work of a shared queer and trans politics. The book will be of interest to scholars and students working on performance, gender and sexuality, and embodiment.

The Bodies of Others connects drag performance to multiple dance histories, tracing how choreography and gesture have long been central to how drag performers and scholars of drag performance have reimagined gender. Substantively researched and tightly argued, the book makes a strong contribution to central and exciting conversations in performance studies and dance studies. I look forward to teaching this in my class.”
—Clare Croft, University of Michigan

"Makes a passionate case for drag dance as so much more than a surface-level donning of another identity.  Based on deeply attentive and insightful close readings of drag dances performed on the theatrical stage over the last four decades, the book presents drag dance as a rigorous practice of generosity and discipline, of historiography and politics, of mourning and imagining alternative futures, and, ultimately, of queer kinship.  In captivating prose that is often playful and poignant, Schwartz compels us to approach drag dancers themselves as serious theorists of gender, embodiment, and temporality."

—Anthea Kraut, University of California, Riverside
Selby Wynn Schwartz is Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford University.

Product Details

  • 298 pages.
  • 22 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2019
  • Forthcoming
  • 978-0-472-12502-9

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