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Erotic Dance for Self by Rowena Gander

Erotic Dance for Self is a short practice-led research project that experiments with erotically charged movement from my perspective as a lesbian dance practitioner. I was inspired to undertake this project because, having embarked on in depth research into erotic dance, it seems that the stigma attached to this dance form is often connected to environment (such as places like strip clubs), the male gaze, and the objectification of women, not the sexually expressive movement, which can be positive and empowering for the dancer. I am inspired by researchers like Dodds(1997), Murphy (2003), Pilcher (2009) and Cantrick (2019) who view erotic dance, not as exploitative to women, but instead as an embodied activity that allows women to find a deeper connection to self. 


As an artist, I enjoy making statements about certain topics and or completely reframing statements that I disagree with. One of the claims I reject when it comes to erotic dance is the accusation that women are only participating in this dance style to please the male viewer. I find this problematic in three ways. Firstly, this accusation assumes that women achieve no pleasure or connection to their body when they dance. Secondly, it suggests that women cannot think about their sexuality without acknowledging men. And, thirdly, it completely overlooks the fact that not all women, who dance in a sensual way, are heterosexual. As a gay woman, who has much experience in moving my body and attaining pleasure in my body when I move, either in private space or in performance, I can confirm a process of erotic dance that does not feed into male gaze, but instead focusses on a creative engagement with erotic thinking for self. Similarly, as someone who has worked extensively with objects that predominately exist in this dance form, such as high heels and vertical pole, I can also verify the potential of erotic movement without the use of these objects.


With the above in mind, during my residency with Metal, I am delving deeper into erotic art that was produced by women including Tracey Emin, Penny Slinger and Carolee Schneeman. Each of these empowering artists have gone against the exploitation of female sexuality in art and have presented their body, in their works, in ways that subvert gaze and therefore enhance agency, pleasure and liberation. Specific to lesbian identity, I am revisiting “Uses of the Erotic: Erotic as Power” by Audre Lorde. This important text expresses the value of erotica when it is fashioned outside of male contexts. 


In terms of movement process, I am revisiting some of my own previous dances, such as those that have emerged because of my engagement with “Erotic Edition Choreography Cards (2018)”. This product supports a movement process whereby dancers are encouraged to think creatively about suggestive movement and who sensual movement is performed for (self or spectator). Additionally, I will be collaborating with womxn audiences via an online workshop, where we will explore, through movement and discussion, themes of gender, power, sexuality, and self-expression. This exchange will shape how I move forward in my artistic practice.

If you would like to see how this research unfolds, join me in my IGTV sharing on Metal Liverpool’s Instagram, where I will be showing movement clips, discussing the creative process behind the movement and what the movement means in terms of gaze and connection to self. Also, if you would like to delve deeper into erotic dance and experience the sensual movement yourself, I invite you to Erotic Dance for Self, via Zoom, 6th February 21 at 11am-12pm. 


Sign up details are here.


Rowena x



Cantrick. M. P. (2019) Embodying the Erotic: Cultivating Sensory Awareness through Dance/Movement Therapy

Dodds, S. (1997) Dance and Erotica: The Construction of the Female Stripper.

Murphy, A. G. (2003) The Dialectical Gaze. Exploring the Subject-Object Tension in the Performances of Women Who Strip

Pilcher, K. (2009) Empowering Degrading or a Mutually Exploitative