“Unpredictable. Counterintuitive. Stunningly conceived. So you think you know dance history? These anthologies are full of revelations.”—Mindy Aloff, editor of Leaps in the Dark: Art and the World
“This is a picture of American dance—and a picture of America through dance—as we have not conceived of it before, advancing the bold and capacious idea that movement can illuminate who Americans are and who they want to be. A startlingly original compilation that includes stops in the unlikeliest places, it makes the case that following the moving body into every byway of life reveals an America that has been hiding in plain sight. It will be impossible to think of this subject in the same way again.?”—Suzanne Carbonneau, George Mason University and scholar in residence, Jacob’s Pillow
The two volumes of Perspectives on American Dance are the first anthologies in over twenty-five years to focus exclusively on American dance practices across a wide span of American culture. They show how social experience, courtship, sexualities, and other aspects of life in America are translated through dancing into spatial patterns, gestures, and partner relationships. Essays in these collections address rarely studied topics in American dance and offer unexpected perspectives on commonly studied dance forms.
The first volume, The Twentieth Century, explores a variety of subjects: white businessmen in Prescott, Arizona, who created a “Smoki tribe” that performed “authentic” Hopi dances for over seventy years; swing dancing by Japanese-American teens in World War II internment camps; African American jazz dancing in the work of ballet choreographer Ruth Page; dancing in early Hollywood movie musicals; how critics identified “American” qualities in the dancing of ballerina Nana Gollner; the politics of dancing with the American flag; English Country Dance as translated into American communities; Bob Fosse’s sociopolitical choreography; and early break dancing as Latino political protest.
The second volume, The New Millennium, features essays by a young generation of writers who look at the kinds of social dancing that speak to new audiences through new media. Topics include “dorky dancing” on YouTube; same-sex competitors on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance; the racial politics of NFL touchdown dances; the commercialization of flash mobs; the connections between striptease and corporate branding; how 9/11 affected dance; the criminalization of New York City club dancing; and the joyous ironies of hipster dance. This volume emphasizes how dancing is becoming more social and interactive as technology opens up new ways to create and distribute dance.
These two volumes show how dancing functions as a template for American identity. The accessible essays in these anthologies use a combination of movement analysis, thematic interpretation, and historical context to convey the vitality and variety of American dance.
Jennifer Atkins is associate professor of dance at Florida State University. Sally R. Sommer is professor of dance and director of the FSU in NYC program at Florida State University. Tricia Henry Young is professor emerita of dance history and former director of the American Dance Studies program at Florida State University.