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Dance and Politics

Edited By Alexandra Kolb

This is the first anthology to explore the fertile intersection of dance and political studies. It offers new perspectives on the connections of dance to governmental, state and party politics, war, nationalism, activism, terrorism, human rights, political ideologies and cultural policy. This cutting-edge book features previously unpublished work by leading scholars of dance, theatre, politics, and management, alongside renowned contemporary choreographers, who propose innovative ways of looking at twentieth- and twenty-first-century dance.
Topics covered range across the political spectrum: from dance tendencies under fascism to the use of choreography for revolutionary socialist ends; from the capacity of dance to reflect the modern market economy to its function in campaigns for peace and justice. The book also contains a comprehensive introduction to the relations between dance and politics.
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7 Dancing the American Dream during World War II


With few exceptions, Western theatre dances inspired by war tend to convey an oppositional stance, either commenting on war’s hardships and devastation or expressing overt ideological resistance.1 Reactions to international conflicts since the end of World War II may make it difficult for current generations to appreciate the extent to which the public and artists rallied in support of the fight against fascism. Today’s socially conscious dances can be seen to emulate the dominant relationship between dance and politics in American modern dance during the 1930s when protest often took dance form. Ranging from the agit-prop dances of Edith Segal and her Red Dancers to dancer-choreographers such as Anna Sokolow, Helen Tamiris and the members of the New Dance Group, socially conscious themes were dominant. The plights of unemployed, homeless or exploited labourers were joined by anti-fascist themes on the burgeoning concert dance stage in New York City. Once America entered World War II in 1941, however, second generation modern dancers adopted a different tone in dances that celebrated positive national archetypes, reinforcing the good in humanity rather than highlighting negative aspects of contemporary life. By the middle of the war, visions of American identity and heroic ideals became increasingly embodied in light-hearted and accessible themes, marking a change from the previous decade in terms of content and expanding the aesthetics associated with modern dance.

The visions of American spirit in the early 1940s continued to be aligned with international struggles demonstrating some similarities to the...

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