Broomfield to explore dance, black masculinity through research fellowship

Assistant professor of theater and dance Mark Broomfield has been awarded a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty. For the six-month fellowship, faculty members on a tenure track line are awarded $15,000 to pursue research in an area of their choosing. Broomfield will use this six-month period from June–December to complete research for his book Passing for Almost Straight: The Politics and Performance of Black Masculinity On and Offstage and for his documentary film Passing for Almost Straight.

According to Broomfield, his research is a result of personal experience as a professional dancer. “The dance community is embracing the high percentage of gay men who are in the art form, but at the same time, even though that’s the case, it’s like a contradiction,” he said. “There is a quite a bit of homophobia.”

Broomfield explained that there aren’t any books explicitly devoted to black masculinity in dance, so he hopes to make such a contribution in that field. He added that the goal of creating a documentary—in addition to his book—is to provide a visual component by following the stories of two dancers to explore masculinity in dance.

“I think that dance—more than anything—really gets at the heart of what it means to perform masculinity,” he said.

During the fellowship, Broomfield will do research at the New York Library for the Performing Arts, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Library of Congress, Jacob’s Pillow and Duke University.

Participants in the fellowship also choose a mentor to help them with their research. Broomfield has chosen to work with University of Miami professor and director of Africana studies David Ikard, who has written multiple books on black masculinity.

“Because you choose a mentor, you’re able to expand those networks and those relationships really give you strong feedback on your work and life,” Broomfield said. “The whole idea of someone being a mentor is that they’ve been through it—they are leaders in the field—and so it’s an opportunity to gain from the insights.”

As part of the fellowship, Broomfield will be going on a Career Enhancement Retreat for four days in the summer with other participants. At the retreat, Broomfield will present his research and see other winners’ projects.

In order to apply for the fellowship, Broomfield wrote a personal essay, proposed a research project and submitted a writing sample. “You have to have a clear idea of what your projects are going to be,” he said. “They want to know who are we awarding this to and why are we awarding it to the applicant.”

Broomfield added that after his research is completed, his book and documentary will be shared with the Geneseo campus.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Long—who wrote a letter of recommendation for Broomfield for the fellowship—emphasized that she feels Broomfield is an incredibly qualified candidate for the program.

“He comes at dance from many different directions and his research work is going to be very interesting about the representation of masculinity in dance,” she said in a phone interview. “He has very good connections with some of the dance companies he’s researching. I think, all together, he’s a really good candidate because I know that he’ll be able to do the research he’s proposing.”