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American Modern Dance in the Twentieth Century

ENGL 284.401
W 3-6:00

This course offers case studies of dance and dancers in the United States in the 20th century. It is an introductory course to the history of modern dance in America. Through the 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 begin "to make sense" in their own terms as well as in ours. 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 is about processes and that there are many different perspectives through which to look at historical phenomena. They become again what they always were: living activities and not exercises or dogmas. Though the course will emphasize the individual lives and works of influential American choreographers and dancers, these lives will be looked at through themes: religion, "race", mentality, events in American history. It would be impossible to give a full account of the biographies of the leading figures that will appear in the list below. In our discussion we shall therefore focus on specific problems to understand time and people - people in their time, choreographers and their use of a given space and our relationship to the people and the concepts they developed.