Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion

Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion

Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion

Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion

Synopsis

"Modern Dance, Negro Dance is the first book to bring together these two vibrant strains of American dance in the modern era. Susan Manning traces the paths of modern dance and Negro dance from their beginnings in the Depression to their ultimate transformations in the postwar years, from Helen Tamiris's and Ted Shawn's suites of Negro Spirituals to concerts sponsored by the Workers Dance League, from Graham's American Document to the debuts of Katherine Dunham and Pearl Primus, from Jose Limon's 1954 work The Traitor to Merce Cunningham's 1958 dances Summerspace and Antic Meet, to Ailey's 1960 masterpiece Revelations. Through photographs and reviews, documentary film and oral history, Manning intricately and inextricably links the two historically divided traditions. The result is a unique view of American dance history across the divisions of black and white, radical and liberal, gay and straight, performer and spectator, and into the multiple, interdependent meanings of bodies in motion." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

“Ailey Is Coming” read the signs posted around my hometown, a small midwestern city that had not seen a professional dance company since the Denishawn troupe vis ited in igz.1924w nearly fifty years later, thanks to the Dance Touring Program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater had arrived to perform at a local high school. I was in tenth grade, and after creeping from my assigned seat to perch on the bottom step of the center aisle of the balcony, I looked through the railing and was enthralled, especially by Judith Jamison parading under an umbrella in Revelations .

The next year I began my odyssey through elite eastern educational establish ments, and at my first stop I enrolled in a modern dance class and in a dance history course taught by the dance instructor. Our textbook was Don McDonagh's The Rise and Fall and Rise of Modern Dance (1970), which recently had appeared in print, and our class took a weekend field trip to New York City to see performances of the work celebrated by McDonagh. At the Brooklyn Academy of Music we attended what I now realize was an Event by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, a collage of excerpts from the repertory performed as a continuous whole. I remember dozing during the Event, then waking up at the end and thinking bleary-eyed, “Is that only the first piece?”

Within a few years, however, I was a convert to Cunningham's aesthetic and an aspiring dance scholar. In the late 1970s I became a fervent fan of Cunningham, spending my last pennies to see his company's 1977 Broadway season and enroll in a Cunningham technique class and taking every opportunity to see the company during a 1978 residency in Boston. Reviewing the residency for a local publication, I concluded that “if meaning exists in Cunningham's work, it lies in this paradox: there . . .

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