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Susan Funkenstein on Ford Motor Company's Dance Education Program

Dance instruction sheet showing diagram of footwork labeled The Pursuit Step

Susan Funkenstein, a Lecturer II at Stamps, delivered a paper at the Dance Studies Association in October, 2021 about Henry Ford’s decades-long program to train his twentieth-century assembly line workers in nineteenth-century old-time line and ballroom dances. Although this might sound contradictory, it wasn’t so for Ford. These dance lessons served to train bodies — especially immigrant- and working-class bodies – to move in ways that maintained an efficient discipline on the factory floor that benefitted the company’s output. Indeed, it was part of a larger project at Ford to control and re-fashion the lives of its employees outside of their work hours, and was informed by Ford’s own xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

This conference paper is Susan’s first foray into a new research project after the publication of her book, Marking Modern Movement: Dance and Gender in the Visual Imagery of the Weimar Republic (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020).