Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts

Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts

Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts

Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts

Synopsis

This ground-breaking work brings dance into current discussions of the African presence in American culture. Dixon Gottschild argues that the Africanist aesthetic has been "invisibilized" by the pervasive force of racism. This book provides evidence to correct and balance the record, investigating the Africanist presence as a conditioning factor in shaping American performance, onstage and in everyday life. She examines the Africanist presence in American dance forms particularly in George Balanchine's Americanized style of ballet, (post)modern dance, and blackface minstrelsy. Hip hop culture and rap are related to contemporary performance, showing how a disenfranchised culture affects the culture in power.

Excerpt

My aim in this work is to reach underground and excavate the subtextual Africanist components, correspondences, influences -- presences, if you will -- that are essentials in defining and shaping Euro-American endeavor in the United States. I will examine these elements in concert dance forms, daily life, and popular performance arenas from minstrelsy to hip hop. Issues of power and agency, as framed by ongoing racialized disparity, enter the discussion. I utilize performance studies methodologies as my research tools: namely, observation, documentation, and analysis of live and taped performance; oral interviews and conversations; and critique of scholarly and popular texts on dance and culture. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 examine Africanist aesthetic principles, their manifestation in European American popular culture and lifestyles, and their function as one of the sources of modernism and postmodernism in the visual arts. Chapter 4 is a discussion of these resonances as an integral component in the undergirding foundations and assumptions of post- modern dance, with references to its predecessor, modern dance. In Chapter 5 I investigate the Africanist presence in George Balanchine's Americanization of ballet. Chapter 6 is a reexamination of minstrelsy -- that old repository of skewed economic, psychological, and aesthetic relationships between blacks and whites. The final chapter focuses on the sociopolitical and cultural issues of power and empowerment that arise in the contemporary performance arena, on stage and in life, as ethnicities clash in acknowledgment or denial of their differences. Hip hop culture enters the discussion due to its central role in the contemporary discourse on hegemony and privilege.

The term "Africanist" is used by contemporary African American scholars such as Joseph Holloway and Toni Morrison (and, in an earlier . . .

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