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Dance for Export

Cultural Diplomacy and the Cold War

Naima Prevots

Publication Year: 1998

At the height of the Cold War in 1954, President Eisenhower inaugurated a program of cultural exchange that sent American dancers and other artists to political "hot spots" overseas. This peacetime gambit by a warrior hero was a resounding success.

Among the artists chosen for international duty were Jose Limon, who led his company on the first government-sponsored tour of South America; Martha Graham, whose famed ensemble crisscrossed southeast Asia; Alvin Ailey, whose company brought audiences to their feet throughout the South Pacific; and George Balanchine, whose New York City Ballet crowned its triumphant visits to Western Europe and Japan with an epoch-making tour of the Soviet Union in 1962. The success of Eisenhower's program of cultural export led directly to the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts and Washington's Kennedy Center.

Naima Prevots draws on an array of previously unexamined sources, including formerly classified State Department documents, congressional committee hearings, and the minutes of the Dance Panel, to reveal the inner workings of "Eisenhower's Program," the complex set of political, fiscal, and artistic interests that shaped it, and the ever-uneasy relationship between government and the arts in the US.


Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

An enormous debt of gratitude goes first and foremost to Lynn Garafola, who encouraged me, always asked tough questions, and proved to be a meticulous, insightful, and supportive colleague and editor. When the various drafts came back with corrections and comments, it was gratifying to know that her high standards and her willingness to put in enormous...

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pp. 1-6

The Cold War, which so powerfully shaped the lives of two generations of Americans, has faded into history. But it remains a continuing source of fascination for scholars of the recent past. Naima Prevots's study of how dance was caught up in the era's diplomacy is a welcome addition to a burgeoning literature that views the Cold War as a cultural conflict as well...

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pp. 7-9

Today, the survival of many artists and arts organizations is threatened. Severe cutbacks in government funding and private support in the last decade have created a crisis in the arts community. In view of the present situation, it is instructive to look back to 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the performing arts not only as an important aspect of...

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Eisenhower's Fund

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pp. 11-22

In a letter written on 27 July 1954 to the House Committee on Appropriations, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced: "I consider it essential that we take immediate and vigorous action to demonstrate the superiority of the products and cultural values of our system of free enterprise." He requested five million dollars "to stimulate the presentation abroad...

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Starting Out

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pp. 23-35

The orchestra applauded us, after which the first violinist stood up and, in the best English at his command, stated that he and the rest of the members wanted us to know that it was their honor to be playing for a company of artists. We had won our first step towards accomplishing our mission.1 These words were written by a member of the...

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ANTA, the Dance Panel, and Martha Graham

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pp. 37-52

When Eisenhower's Emergency Fund was approved in August 1954, the State Department established an interagency committee to oversee decision-making. At the head was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Robinson McIlvaine. Julius Seebach represented the USIA. The committee also consisted of representatives from the Departments of...

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The Avant-Garde Conundrum

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pp. 53-68

The 1950s brought significant changes to concert dance in America. Members of the Dance Panel were in a quandary as they struggled with the new body of work emerging from the studios of the most talented and interesting of the young generation of choreographers. Because the panelists often found it difficult to accept this work, they frequently refused...

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Ballet and Soviet-American Exchange

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pp. 69-91

Today, at Dulles or Kennedy Airport, travelers pay little heed to Aeroflot planes sitting majestically on the airstrip waiting to load passengers. Both American and Russian tourists, academics, artists, scientists, or businessmen can now take advantage of the Russian airline's new luxury service and fly back and forth to Moscow with relative ease. In addition, both...

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African-American Artists

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pp. 93-110

The Foreign Service dispatch addressed to the State Department was dated 2 July 1962. It was from the American Embassy in Tokyo, and the subject was "Cultural Presentations: Report on de Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company." The report was positive in tone: "de Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company makes excellent impression in...

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How Broad a Spectrum?

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pp. 111-125

Whitman's "athletic Democracy" encompassed a broad spectrum of heritage and heredity, of hopes and dreams. In the 1950s the Dance Panel struggled with "this puzzle the New World," with its many colors, cultures, and religions. The idea of sending a Native American group abroad was first mentioned at the meeting on 10 March 1955. Edward Magnum was one of two...

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On the Home Front

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pp. 127-135

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts sits securely on the banks of the Potomac--a landmark in our nation's capital. Inside its grand facade a bustle of intense activity continues from morning to midnight. Visitors from all over the world tour its five theaters, gift shops, and grand foyers. People of all ages attend formal and informal performances, and a...


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pp. 137-146

Members of the ANTA Dance Panel

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pp. 147-149


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pp. 151-159

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 161-174

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573360
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819563651

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 1998