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American Modern Dance in the Twentieth Century

ENGL 259.301
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This course traces the history of modern American culture through a series of case studies of the greatest American choreographers and dancers from Isadora Duncan at the beginning of the twentieth century through Martha Graham to Alvin Ailey, Jose Limon and Bill T. Jones at its end. These dancers and their creations express fundamental assumptions about the special character of American life and culture (the influence of the 'frontier', the nature of personal religion, the importance of race and the meaning of democracy).

Through these case studies we shall understand the evolution of modern dance in the U.S.A. and the highly relevant question of modernity. This course will use poems, excerpts from novels and plays, music and the visual arts to set the stage and provide the context. The turbulent environments of war and post-war, of economic crises and political change will provide the core framework, into which the dance forms studied can be set. They demonstrate beginning and change within an artistic movement and they show under which circumstances new ideas emerge and how they are then put in to practice. The course will show that history, dance history, is about processes and that there are many different perspectives through which to look at historical phenomena.