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“Dance is the fist with which I fight the sickening ignorance of prejudice.” -Pearl Primus
Early 20th century modern dance exemplified embodied rebellion. The body as a tool for expression, social critique and resistance evolved radically, as the work of modern dance artists in the U.S. exposed and dismantled restrictive aspects of the racial and social dynamics of the 20th century, especially for women and people of color. We will examine particular artists’ voices that arose with new aesthetic and thematic concerns in the struggle for artistic freedom and social justice, while examining why some, and not others, had opportunities to advance their art.
We will investigate key artists and works in the historic canon in order to understand the ways in which bodies rebel, overtly and covertly, to guide us in the power and importance of embodied resistance. Virtual class visits with artists active in the reconstruction and performance of works of protest such as Talley Beatty’s Mourne’s Bench, Jane Dudley’s Time is Money and Harmonica Breakdown, Martha Graham’s Chronicle and Deep Song, Pearl Primus’ Strange Fruit and Hard Time Blues, Sophie Maslow’s Dustbowl Ballads, and Anna Sokolow’s Slaughter of the Innocents and Rooms will enhance our dialogue. We will also connect these historic pieces to the work of current artists such as Dr. Shamell Bell and Akram Khan.
We will learn to “read” dance as a language and to develop a critical framework by examining, for example, how we define bodily innovation, what a work reflects about its time, its creator, and the place of dance in society, how the body is constructed/deconstructed in the work, spiritual practice in relation to dance-making, the social identity of the creator and the performers, and the role of music/sound/text in relation to movement expression. We will periodically practice movement ideas in workshops designed for any student; no previous dance experience is expected or required.
The class will collaboratively develop final project(s) on our chosen themes, using movement, sound, and research to develop our own call(s) to action. These will be activated in spaces both physical and virtual.
Format: seminar; Hybrid
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Students are expected to complete course readings and viewings in order to actively participate in discussions, generate periodic short written responses, and develop and present a final project.
Preference given via lottery if over-enrolled
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: