Paper Session
Nov 11, 2021 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211111T1600 20211111T1650 America/Chicago Dance Narratives AMS 2021
“Dancing Envoys to Paris”: George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet at the _Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century_ Festival
Individual Paper 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 22:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 22:50:00 UTC

The Congress for Cultural Freedom's _Masterpieces of the Twentieth Century_ festival, held in Paris in May 1952, has frequently been examined for its impact on Cold War-era cultural exchange as well as for its covert funding by the US Central Intelligence Agency. The event framed contemporary Western art as rich and representative of the creative possibilities offered in free societies-in stark opposition to the ostensible sterility of works produced under totalitarian regimes, namely the Soviet Union. Its goal was an artistic confrontation intended to reinvigorate Western culture and anti-communist sentiment. 

Although the Boston Symphony Orchestra is typically identified as the festival's headliner, another American arts organization enjoyed prominent placement: the New York City Ballet (NCYB). The nascent troupe's Paris debut, the event served as a prelude to NYCB's regular export to Europe as well as the Soviet Union in the decades that followed. Drawing on the Congress's archival materials at the University of Chicago Library's Special Collections Research Center as well as City Ballet records from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, this paper presents the first in-depth study of NYCB's appearance at the 1952 festival, which helped establish it as America's representative ballet company internationally in the early Cold War period. Further, it reveals that NYCB co-founder and creative director George Balanchine was a member of the Congress for Cultural Freedom. That Balanchine belonged to one of the foremost anti-communist organizations operating in Europe during the 1950s challenges enduring narratives about the choreographer's apoliticism. As such, this paper proposes a new framework for understanding City Ballet's participation in government-sponsored cultural exchange tours of the Cold War period, including those to the Soviet Union in 1962 and 1972: as a decision informed by Balanchine's knowledge of and commitment to contemporary Western cultural politics. 

Lena Leson
University Of Michigan
Dancing to J.S. Bach’s _Goldberg Variations_
Individual Paper 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 22:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 22:50:00 UTC

In 1937, William Dollar, a George Balanchine protégé, and an upcoming dancer and choreographer, initiated an ongoing artistic trend by choreographing J.S. Bach's _Goldberg Variations_BWV 988. Dollar not only brought artistic entertainment to a country burdened by economic depression, but also made Bach's now iconic variations available to the masses at a time when they were little known. Since Dollar's Air and Variations, there have been at least eighteen additional choreographed versions of Bach's Goldberg Variations. With dance styles ranging from tap, to modern dance, to classical ballet, Bach's work, which was inspired by dance, has become a regularly choreographed work. 

Some of the choreographed versions present Bach's Goldberg Variations in their entirety with Glenn Gould's iconic recordings, with live piano or harpsichord, or with a chamber orchestra; some feature abbreviations or reorganizations of the music, while others meld Bach with newly composed pieces.

Although Bach's Goldberg Variations have been choreographed numerous times, there is very little scholarship on the topic. Based on interviews, concert programs, video footage, letters, photographs, and other documents, this article provides the first overview of the choreographed versions of Bach's Goldberg Variations. In the process it not only sheds light on a little researched aspect of the work's reception history, but also draws attention to ways that interdisciplinary connections have influenced the reception of Bach's music. In particular, it reveals that although many choreographers have shown reverence toward the Goldberg Variations and have viewed the dance movements as visual representations of moving musical architecture, in recent decades, there has been more openness to the deconstruction and reorganization of the piece according to the conception of the choreographer and interpreter through narrative and conceptual interpolations. In the process, the chapter contributes to ongoing research about the gradual loosening of the work concept in recent decades.

Erinn Knyt
University Of Massachusetts Amherst
Cakewalking in Paris: New Representations and Contexts of African American Culture
Individual Paper 04:00 PM - 04:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/11 22:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/11 22:50:00 UTC

In 1902, Les Elks, an American dance troupe, performed the cakewalk on the stage of Nouveau Cirque. The press of the time declared this performance as the cakewalk's arrival in Paris. However, troupes of African-American performers and Blackface minstrels had toured Europe throughout the nineteenth century and cakewalks were reportedly performed before1900 in cities like Paris. By 1906, cakewalks had been featured in copious amounts of editions of music composed by French composers and published by French publishers, circus shows, dance methods, as well as non-musical genres such as vaudevilles and a film by Georges Méliès (Le Cake-walk Infernal, 1903). Simultaneously, dancing cakewalks became a significant part of the Parisian salon culture of the time.

This paper focuses on the cakewalk as a catalyst to France's internal dialogue around issues of national identity vis-à-vis class and race. It expands on existing literature by analyzing a wide array of primary sources from different disciplines, which reveal an ambivalent approach to the dance. Many non-music sources such as vaudevilles emphasize the cakewalk's lack of refinement, pathologizing it and referring to it as a "contagious disease" or "stupid epidemic." Music-related sources, such as musical editions of the cakewalks, included newly edited dance methods which featured a codified rendition of the movements of the dance. Catering to the Parisian (white) elite, these dance methods described the movements of Black practitioners using terminology reserved to ballet and other dances associated with more 'refined' practices. Front covers of musical editions often reinforced appropriations of the cakewalk by depicting members of the elite dancing it happily. Demonizing, pathologizing, and re-codifying the cakewalk through artifacts of popular culture contributed to reinterpreting and 'whitening' became an effective way to endorse the genre for white audiences.

This study addresses the ambivalence towards the Other (culture and race) in artistic venues and private salons of colonial (white) France. It evaluates re-interpretations of Black-American culture (as different from American culture) and reveals how the cakewalk's popularity prompted an internal dialogue around France's own issues of national identity vis-à-vis class and race.

Cesar Leal
Gettysburg College
Gettysburg College
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Michigan
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