The Bodies of Others

Drag Dances and Their Afterlives
Selby Wynn Schwartz
The first book-length exploration of drag dance in the U.S.


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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, the book delves into four decades of drag dances on American stages. Drag dances take us beyond glittery one-liners and into the spaces between gender norms. In these backstage histories, dancers give their bodies over to other selves, opening up the category of realness. 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.

“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.”
—Clare Croft, University of Michigan
"Makes a passionate case for drag dance as so much more than a surface-level donning of another identity… 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

Cover photo by Dana Lixenberg, courtesy of the artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam | New York.
Selby Wynn Schwartz is Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Schwartz offers a comprehensive and captivating analysis of the social, temporal, and historical functions of drag, countering hegemonic, cisgender, heterosexual histories of dance, embodiment, and performance. ... This important book will appeal to readers and researchers interested in queer theory, temporality, embodiment, and performance. Recommended."

  • "Selby Wynn Schwartz’s The Bodies of Others takes an expansive view of drag dance on the concert stage, weaving together dance studies, gender theory, and historiography to ask how four decades of drag dancers performed as other selves... As the first book-length study of drag dance on the US concert stage it provides an analytic that is deeply important to wider drag scholarship."
    Journal of Dramatic Theory & Criticism
  • "The Bodies of Others is at its most thrilling when identifying the methods through which performance—which is temporal, first and foremost—finds new ways of communicating between artist and spectator, or, as is often the case in dance works, when the artist is split and the two communicating are dancer and choreographer."
    —Charles O'Malley, Theatre Survey
  • "The Bodies of Others is truly successful in mapping, contextualizing, and critically analyzing the fascinating yet understudied phenomenon of drag dance and in seeing its very real utopian potential." 
    —Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts
  • "In her theoretically engaged study, Schwartz illuminates the important role that drag dance—as a complicated, messy, evolving kinesthetic practice—can play in our understanding of our own subjectivity and of the world that is created by the form’s assertions of multiple experiences and desires for belonging. ...With its beautifully descriptive language and rigorous analyses, this monograph articulates the material realities and political possibilities of drag as a culturally significant project of generous relationality."
    —Alison Bory, Theatre Journal
  • Winner: American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) 2020 Sally Banes Publication Prize
  • Finalist: 2020 Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Nonfiction
  • Finalist: Theatre Library Association (TLA) 2019 George Freedley Memorial Award for Outstanding Theater Books

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Review of The Bodies of Others in Theatre Survey | 04/08/2020
Read: Review of The Bodies of Others on thINKingDANCE | 09/07/2020
Listen: Selby Schwartz interviewed in New Books Network | 8/20/2019

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 300pp.
  • 22 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2019
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07409-9

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  • $80.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2019
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05409-1

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  • $34.95 U.S.

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