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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 This cutting-edge book features previously unpublished work by leading scholars of dance, theatre, politics, and management, alongside renowned contemporary choreographers, who propose innovative ways of looking at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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13 Class and Thatcherism in Billy Elliot


The British film industry has achieved unlikely recent success by blending themes of declining industrialism in the 1980s and 1990s with the performing arts. Billy Elliot (2000), written by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Daldry, is set in a fictional colliery town called Everington in County Durham during the most infamous confrontation between Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and the trade union movement: the coalminers’ strike of 1984–1985. Its title character is an eleven-year-old boy, the son of a miner, who discovers a prodigious talent for ballet at the time his father and elder brother are embroiled in a campaign against the government’s programme of pit closures. The contrast between Billy’s artistic passion and the plight of his imperilled community is reminiscent of two slightly earlier films which showed the (later) upshot of deindustrialisation in the 1990s. Mark Herman’s Brassed Off (1996) centred on an award-winning brass band comprising members of a colliery on the very point of closure, while Peter Cattaneo’s The Full Monty (1997) followed the exploits of a group of newly unemployed Sheffield steelworkers who form a striptease troupe. All three screenplays combine elements of comedy and pathos and are largely critical of the impact of Margaret Thatcher’s ideology and policies on the working-class neighbourhoods they depict. All three, moreover, present performance practices, whether of dance or music, as individual or collective responses to economic turmoil.

Billy Elliot the Musical opened in 2005 in the West End, again with Daldry as director,...

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