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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Dance

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The Dance That Makes You Vanish Cover

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The Dance That Makes You Vanish

Cultural Reconstruction in Post-Genocide Indonesia

Rachmi Diyah Larasati


Indonesian court dance, a purportedly pure and untouched tradition, is famed throughout the world for its sublime calm and stillness. Yet this unyieldingly peaceful surface conceals a time of political repression and mass killing. Between 1965 and 1966, some one million Indonesians—including a large percentage of the country’s musicians, artists, and dancers—were killed, arrested, or disappeared as Suharto established a virtual dictatorship that ruled for the next thirty years.


In The Dance That Makes You Vanish, an examination of the relationship between female dancers and the Indonesian state since 1965, Rachmi Diyah Larasati elucidates the Suharto regime’s dual-edged strategy: persecuting and killing performers perceived as communist or left leaning while simultaneously producing and deploying “replicas”—new bodies trained to standardize and unify the “unruly” movements and voices of those vanished—as idealized representatives of Indonesia’s cultural elegance and composure in bowing to autocratic rule. Analyzing this history, Larasati shows how the Suharto regime’s obsessive attempts to control and harness Indonesian dance for its own political ends have functioned as both smoke screen and smoke signal, inadvertently drawing attention to the site of state violence and criminality by constantly pointing out the “perfection” of the mask that covers it.


Reflecting on her own experiences as an Indonesian national troupe dancer from a family of persecuted female dancers and activists, Larasati brings to life a powerful, multifaceted investigation of the pervasive use of culture as a vehicle for state repression and the global mass-marketing of national identity.


The Dancer Within Cover

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The Dancer Within

Intimate Conversations with Great Dancers

Rose Eichenbaum

The Dancer Within is a collection of photographic portraits and short essays based on confessional interviews with forty dancers and entertainers, many of them world-famous. Well-known on the concert stage, on Broadway, in Hollywood musicals, and on television, the personalities featured in this book speak with extraordinary candor about all stages of the dancer’s life—from their first dance class to their signature performances and their days of reflection on the artist’s life. The Dancer Within reveals how these artists triumphed, but also how they overcame adversity, including self-doubt, injuries, and aging. Most of all, this book is about the courage, commitment, love, and passion of these performers in their quest for artistic excellence. The reader will quickly realize that “the dancer within” is a metaphor of the human spirit.

Dancing from Past to Present Cover

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Dancing from Past to Present

Nation, Culture, Identities

Edited by Theresa Jill Buckland

This groundbreaking collection combines ethnographic and historic strategies to reveal how dance plays crucial cultural roles in various regions of the world, including Tonga, Java, Bosnia-Herzegovina, New Mexico, India, Korea, Macedonia, and England. The essays find a balance between past and present and examine how dance and bodily practices are core identity and cultural creators. Reaching beyond the typically Eurocentric view of dance, Dancing from Past to Present opens a world of debate over the role dance plays in forming and expressing cultural identities around the world.

Dancing from the Heart Cover

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Dancing from the Heart

Movement, Gender, and Sociality in the Cook Islands

Kalissa Alexeyeff

Dancing from the Heart is the first study of gender, globalization, and expressive culture in the Cook Islands. It demonstrates how dance in particular plays a key role in articulating the overlapping local, regional, and transnational agendas of Cook Islanders. Kalissa Alexeyeff reconfigures conventional views of globalization’s impact on indigenous communities, moving beyond diagnoses of cultural erosion and contamination to a grounded exploration of creative agency and vital cultural production. Central to the study is a rich and textured ethnographic account of contemporary Cook Islands dance practice. Based on fieldwork, in-depth interviews, and archival research, it offers an engrossing analysis of how Cook Islands social life is generated through expressive practices. Dance is explored in a variety of settings, including beauty pageants, tourist venues, nightclubs and community celebrations at home and within Cook Islands communities abroad. Contemporary Cook Islands dance practices are also shaped by competing ideas about the past. Debates about precolonial traditions, missionization, and colonialism pervade discussions about dance and expressive culture. Alexeyeff shows how the politics of tradition reflect the competing moral, political, personal, and economic practices of postcolonial Cook Islanders. Throughout the work the stories and voices of individuals are brought to the fore. Their views are juxtaposed with scholarship on tradition, modernity, and social dynamics. Engaging and accessible, Dancing from the Heart illuminates specific and intimate aspects of Cook Islands social life while, at the same time, addressing fundamental questions within anthropology and indigenous, performance, and postcolonial studies.

Dancing Many Drums Cover

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Dancing Many Drums

Excavations In African American Dance

Thomas F. Defrantz

Few will dispute the profound influence that African American music and movement has had in American and world culture. Dancing Many Drums explores that influence through a groundbreaking collection of essays on African American dance history, theory, and practice. In so doing, it reevaluates "black" and "African American " as both racial and dance categories. Abundantly illustrated, the volume includes images of a wide variety of dance forms and performers, from ring shouts, vaudeville, and social dances to professional dance companies and Hollywood movie dancing.

Bringing together issues of race, gender, politics, history, and dance, Dancing Many Drums ranges widely, including discussions of dance instruction songs, the blues aesthetic, and Katherine Dunham’s controversial ballet about lynching, Southland. In addition, there are two photo essays: the first on African dance in New York by noted dance photographer Mansa Mussa, and another on the 1934 "African opera," Kykunkor, or the Witch Woman.

Dancing Tango Cover

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Dancing Tango

Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World

Argentinean tango is a global phenomenon. Since its origin among immigrants from the slums of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, it has crossed and re-crossed many borders.Yet, never before has tango been danced by so many people and in so many different places as today. Argentinean tango is more than a specific music and style of dancing. It is also a cultural imaginary which embodies intense passion, hyper-heterosexuality, and dangerous exoticism. In the wake of its latest revival, tango has become both a cultural symbol of Argentinean national identity and a transnational cultural space in which a modest, yet growing number of dancers from different parts of the globe meet on the dance floor.
 
Through interviews and ethnographical research in Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, Kathy Davis shows why a dance from another era and another place appeals to men and women from different parts of the world and what happens to them as they become caught up in the tango salon culture. She shows how they negotiate the ambivalences, contradictions, and hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and global relations of power between North and South in which Argentinean tango is – and has always been – embroiled.
 
Davis also explores her uneasiness about her own passion for a dance which – when seen through the lens of contemporary critical feminist and postcolonial theories – seems, at best, odd, and, at worst, disreputable and even a bit shameful. She uses the disjuncture between the incorrect pleasures and complicated politics of dancing tango as a resource for exploring the workings of passion as experience, as performance, and as cultural discourse. She concludes that dancing tango should be viewed less as a love/hate embrace with colonial overtones than a passionate encounter across many different borders between dancers who share a desire for difference and a taste of the ‘elsewhere.’Dancing Tango is a vivid, intriguing account of an important global cultural phenomenon.

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Dancing the New World

Aztecs, Spaniards, and the Choreography of Conquest

By Paul A. Scolieri

Analyzing the extensive accounts of Aztec dance practices in colonial-era European chronicles, histories, letters, and travel books, this volume reveals the surprising and crucial role that dance played in the European conquest and colonization of the Americas.

The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora Cover

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The Day the Dancers Stayed: Performing in the Filipino/American Diaspora

Pilipino Cultural Nights at American campuses have been a rite of passage for youth culture and a source of local community pride since the 1980s. Through performances—and parodies of them—these celebrations of national identity through music, dance, and theatrical narratives reemphasize what it means to be Filipino American. In The Day the Dancers Stayed, scholar and performer Theodore Gonzalves uses interviews and participant observer techniques to consider the relationship between the invention of performance repertoire and the development of diasporic identification.

Gonzalves traces a genealogy of performance repertoire from the 1930s to the present. Culture nights serve several functions: as exercises in nostalgia, celebrations of rigid community entertainment, and occasionally forums for political intervention. Taking up more recent parodies of Pilipino Cultural Nights, Gonzalves discusses how the rebellious spirit that enlivened the original seditious performances has been stifled.

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Directing the Dance Legacy of Doris Humphrey

The Creative Impulse of Reconstruction

Lesley Main

Directing the Dance Legacy of Doris Humphrey looks inside four of Doris Humphrey’s major choreographic works—Water Study (1928), The Shakers (1931), With My Red Fires (1936), and Passacaglia (1938)—with an eye to how directorial strategies applied in recent contemporized stagings in the United States and Europe could work across the modern and contemporary dance genre. Author Lesley Main, a seasoned practitioner of Doris Humphrey choreography, stresses to the reader the need to balance respect for classical works from the modern dance repertory with the necessity for fresh directorial strategies, to balance between traditional practices and a creative role for the reconstructor.
    Drawing upon her own dance experience, Main’s book addresses an area of dance research and practice that is becoming increasingly pertinent as the dancer-choreographers of the 20th century modern and contemporary dance are no longer alive to attend to the re-stagings of the body of their works. Insightful and thought-provoking, Directing the Dance Legacy of Doris Humphrey calls for the creation of new forms of directorial practice in dance beyond reconstruction. The radical new practices it proposes to replace the old are sure to spark debate and fresh thinking across the dance field.

Don't Act, Just Dance Cover

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Don't Act, Just Dance

The Metapolitics of Cold War Culture

Catherine Gunther Kodat

At some point in their career, nearly all the dancers who worked with George Balanchine were told “don’t act, dear; just dance.” The dancers understood this as a warning against melodramatic over-interpretation and an assurance that they had all the tools they needed to do justice to the steps—but its implication that to dance is already to act in a manner both complete and sufficient resonates beyond stage and studio. 

Drawing on fresh archival material, Don’t Act, Just Dance places dance at the center of the story of the relationship between Cold War art and politics. Catherine Gunther Kodat takes Balanchine’s catch phrase as an invitation to explore the politics of Cold War culture—in particular, to examine the assumptions underlying the role of “apolitical” modernism in U.S. cultural diplomacy. Through close, theoretically informed readings of selected important works—Marianne Moore’s “Combat Cultural,” dances by George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, and Yuri Grigorovich, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and John Adams’s Nixon in China—Kodat questions several commonly-held beliefs about the purpose and meaning of modernist cultural productions during the Cold War. 

Rather than read the dance through a received understanding of Cold War culture, Don’t Act, Just Dance reads Cold War culture through the dance, and in doing so establishes a new understanding of the politics of modernism in the arts of the period. 

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