Tag Archives: tennis ball

Dancer’s Folk Usage of a Tennis Ball


Informant AT was a current undergraduate student at The University of Southern California pursuing their BFA in Dance at the time of this collection. As an aspiring dancer and college student, AT takes dance classes almost daily and rehearses regularly. With all of the physical demands that dance requires, AT often finds themself with aching and sore muscles. To combat this, AT has adopted a popular folk use of a commercial object that they learned from other dancers.


Stepping on the tennis by and moving your foot around.

Slowly and slightly moving your body while laying or sitting on the tennis ball.

Firmly pushing/pressing the tennis ball against your body while grasping it with your hand.


According to AT, this folk usage of a tennis ball allows him to “roll out” his sore muscles which helps them feel less achy. In hearing AT describe this, I started to realize how this folk usage can reflect and distinguish the identity of dancers. Tennis balls are not designed and sold to alleviate muscle soreness. The action of using tennis balls in this folk way, allows dancers to distinguish themselves as such. While dancers frequently experience muscle soreness and fatigue, they don’t always have the time or the funds to get the attention/care from massage therapists. The tennis ball has come to meet the needs of dancers while being an affordable alternative that dancers can use on other own time. Since dancers have busy schedules that require them to move from studio to studio or studio to the stage, it is important that dancers be able to fit all of their belongings in a portable bag. The small size of the tennis ball is convenient for dancers since it can easily fit in just about any bag.

Buns Up Game

“So the Buns Up Game is a game that I played in middle school and they’re still playing it at my school. And so the object of the game is to never get your buns hit with the tennis ball, and so the game is played against a wall and someone throws the tennis ball at the wall and the other person has to catch it with one hand. And it can bounce once or not at all. If you miss it with one hand, then the person who threw it can then grab the ball and you have to run to the wall and touch the wall with your hands before the person grabs the ball and chucks it at your butt. And that’s why it’s called Buns Up.”


The informant was a 50-year-old woman who works as a middle school teacher teaching English, dance, and history to 7th and 8th graders. Although she has spent the last 19 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she grew up in Lubbock, Texas and Austin, Texas. She is also my mother, and this interview took place over Skype one afternoon when we were talking about things she did when she was growing up that she has observed taking place among her students now. She learned this game, “in . . . Lubbock, Texas. I learned to play it outside because we had a lot of cement and a blank wall. Mostly the boys played it, but some of the girls that were more courageous would play it also. At my school right now there’s a blacktop and it’s mostly the first graders that are playing it, instead of like the middle schoolers that used to play it.”


When I asked her why thinks people play this game, she said, “Well, because it’s a skill to be able to catch, eye-hand coordination with one hand, the ball that’s about the size of a baseball or a tennis ball. Plus it’s fun to throw the ball at people if they, and it, well it makes people feel bad if they, I mean it makes people feel good if they have more skill than the other player. Plus it’s reflexes and yeah, you get to actually take mean action on people, I guess.” When I asked her what she thinks this game means, it became clear that the informant did not think much of this game. She said, “I think it means that it’s an easy game to play with a ball and a wall. Like, you don’t have . . . I mean, it takes very little equipment and only two people and, with a city, if you don’t have a field or grass it’s a game you can play in the street.”


I tend to agree with the informant that the main reason this game is played is that it requires little explanation and little equipment to play. It is easy to start and stop, can be played in many different locations, and is challenging enough to be entertaining. I there’s a little more to the meaning behind the game though, based solely on its name. Because this game is generally played by middle school kids, it seems like there is something to the fact that part of the game is throwing a ball at another person’s butt. At this age, this action might seem particularly taboo. It is also interesting, then, that Buns Up is somewhat gendered, with only a few girls taking part, and that my mother was one of these girls. This game provides an outlet for children to be silly and active, while subtly crossing established social boundaries.