Edited By Hyunseon Lee and Naomi D. Segal
Performing the Icon: The Body on Stage and the Staged Body in Salome’s ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’
Salome is iconic. She is first of all an icon in western visual culture, in the many depictions of her holding or kissing the Baptist’s severed head in various positions, as represented either in the vivid pictures of Gustave Moreau or in the refined black-and-white lines of Aubrey Beardsley. Yet her iconic status goes beyond physical images. She is described in the texts of Heinrich Heine and Gustave Flaubert as well as Joris-Karl Huysmans, whose narrator, Jean des Esseintes calls her ‘l’innocente et dangereuse idole’ [the innocent and deadly idol].1 Salome has become the mother of all bad girls, the prototype of the dancing vamp, the spoiled child and the fruit of demoralized family relations. As the perfect femme fatale, she is a textbook example of the typical motifs of fin-de-siècle Europe. Reiterations of her story incorporate taboos and transgressions, the fascination of hysteria and of the female body. Salome has come to demonstrate what western culture anxiously has to control: women, children, bodies, sexuality and the orient. ← 179 | 180 →
On the one hand, this mythic figure is a symbol, a representation and an image of diverse meanings from different contexts that have objectified her, petrified her into some sort of fixed reference. Looking at the production history, but also the reception history of Richard Strauss’s operatic version of the Judean princess, this tendency is confirmed: she is presented and discussed as an image of something, depending on the theory...
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