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Frontier and Fantasy: American Modern Dance in the Twentieth Century

ENGL 259.301
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30

This course traces the history of modern American dance 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, the response to AIDS).

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.