Unit I: introduction and overview (2 sessions)

What is tradition? And how do we identify traditions in American dance? How do traditional dance forms construct gender? How is dance from different cultures typically presented the broadest American audience? What do these presentations tell us about the culture that produced the dance? This unit will provide students with a general overview of basic concepts such as dance, performance, kinesthesia, musicality, and culture.

Redfern, Betty. “What is Art?” Routledge Dance Studies Reader, pp. 125-134

“The Power of Dance.” Dancing, pp. 12-35.

“Introduction.” America Dancing, pp. 1-15.

Sklar, Deirdre. “Five Premises for a Culturally Sensitive Approach to Dance.” Moving History/Dancing Culture: A Dance Studies Reader, pp. 30-32.

“The Power of Dance.” Dancing. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Wang Center

Unit II: dance as an expression of religious worship (3 sessions)

How has American concert dance been inspired by religious dances of the world? A focus on Indian dance forms, with a consideration of Ruth St. Denis’ Westernized “Indian” dances. How do these dances conflate gender and spirituality?

“Lord of the Dance.” Dancing, pp. 36-69.

Stuckey, P. Sterling. “Christian Conversion and the Challenge of Dance.” Dancing Many Drums, pp. 39-58.

Desmond, Jane. “Dancing Out the Difference: Cultural Imperialism and Ruth St. Denis’s Radha of 1906.” Moving History/Dancing Culture, pp. 256-270.

“Lord of the Dance.” Dancing.

Ailey, Alvin. Revelations.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at ICA

Unit III: dance as an expression of social order and power (4 sessions)

How can concert dance express social order? A focus on the court roots of ballet; introduction to the Bennington school; and a consideration of Doris Humphrey’s “With My Red Fires.”

“Dance of the Realm.” Dancing, pp. 70-107.

Duncan, Isadora. “Isadora Duncan’s Vision of American Dancing.” America Dancing, pp. 196-199.

“An Introduction to Choreography.” The Art of Making Dances, pp. 15-41.

Graham, Martha. “Platform for the American Dance.” America Dancing, p. 203.

“Dance of the Realm.” Dancing.

Humphrey, Doris. “New Dance.”

Paper #1 due

Brenda Dixon Gottschild and Helmut Gottschild, “Tongue, Smell, Color.”

Brenda Dixon Gottschild, “Researching Performance: The (Black) Dancing Body as a Measure of Culture.” MLK Visiting Professor Lecture.

Unit IV: dancing as an expression of cultural mores (4 sessions)

How does concert dance confirm gender expectations? This unit will focus on gender-specific behavior and dance in the Middle East, with an examination of Ted Shawn’s all-male dance ensemble.

“Social Dance.” Dancing, pp. 108-127.

“The Dance of the Century (1988).” America Dancing, pp. 127-128.

“Dancing for Men.” America Dancing, pp. 200-203.

DeFrantz, Thomas. “Simmering Passivity: The Black Male Body in Concert Dance.” Moving Words, pp. 106-121.

Ward, Andrew H. “Dancing in the Dark: Rationalism and the Neglect of Social Dance.” Dance, Sex, and Gender, pp. 16-33.

Fishwick, Marshall. “The Twist: Brave New Whirl (1962).” America Dancing, pp. 123-126.

“Sex and Social Dance.” Dancing.

Shawn, Ted. “Kinetic Molpai.”

Jones, Bill T. “Fever Swamp.”

Paper #2 due

Unit V: dance as the autobiographical creation of individual artists (4 sessions)

How can concert dance be an intimate, personal expression? This unit will focus on contemporary dance in the United States, with an examination of the work of Yvonne Rainier, Twyla Tharp, and Merce Cunningham.

“Modernizing Dance.” Dancing, pp. 190-237.

Jowitt, Deborah. “A Private View of Dance Criticism.” The Dance Has Many Faces, pp. 202-209.

Graham, Martha. “I Am a Dancer.” Routledge Dance Studies Reader, pp. 66-71.

Brown, Carol. “Re-tracing Our Steps: The Possibilities for Feminist Dance Histories.” Dance History: An Introduction, pp. 198-216.

Jones, Bill T., and Gillespie, Peggy. “Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land” America Dancing, pp. 227-233.

“Individual and Tradition.” Dancing.

Rainier, Yvonne. “Trio A.”

Tharp, Twyla. Catherine Wheel.

Cunningham, Merce. Story.

Paper revision due

Unit VI: dance as a classical art (5 sessions)

How does concert dance function as a classical art? What is classicism? Is ballet inherently misogynistic? A focus on kabuki in Japan and ballet in America, with a consideration of the choreography of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Lar Lubovitch.

“Classical Dance Theater.” Dancing, pp. 128-163.

Kealiinohomoku, Joann. “An Anthropologist Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance.” What is Dance?, pp. 533-549.

Novak, Cynthia. “Ballet, Gender and Cultural Politics.” Dance, Gender and Culture.

Daly, Ann. “The Balanchine Woman: Of Hummingbirds and Channel Swimmers.” TDR. Vol. 31 no. 1, 1987.

Moore, Lillian. “A Critic Reacts to Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes (1958).” America Dancing, p. 219.

Foster, Susan. “The Ballerina’s Phallic Pointe.” Corporealities: Bodies, Knowledge, Culture, and Power, pp. 1-24.

Balanchine, George. Agon, Jewels, Prodigal Son.

“Classical Dance Theater.” Dancing.

Oral presentations

Unit VII: dance as an emblem of cultural identity and fusion (3 sessions)

How can concert dance fuse culture together? A focus on dances in the Americas, with a consideration of Martha Graham’s theatrical transformations of Native American rituals, and Katherine Dunham’s adaptation of Santería ritual. How does concert dance confirm identity for minority populations? A focus on African dance forms in diaspora, with an examination of popular dance forms from the United States. Are African dance forms always configured with male drummers and female dancers?

“New Worlds of Dance.” Dancing, pp. 164-189.

“Dances of the Native Americans.” America Dancing, pp. 16-50.

Needham, Maureen. “The War of the Quadrilles: Creoles vs. Americans (1804)” America Dancing, pp. 66-72.

Malone, Jacqui. “Keep to the Rhythm and You’ll Keep To Life’: Meaning and Style in African American Vernacular Dance.” Routledge Dance Studies Reader, pp. 230-235.

Dixon Gottschild, Brenda. “Barefoot and Hot, Sneakered and Cool: Africanist Subtexts in Modern and Postmodern Dance.” Digging the Africanist Presence: Dance and Other Contexts, pp. 47-58.

Thompson, Robert Farris. “Dance and Culture, An Aesthetic of the Cool: West African Dance.” African Forum 2 (Fall 1996): pp 85-102.

Dance Black America

“Dancing in One World.” Dancing.

Urban Bush Women. Batty Moves.

Paper #3 due
Wrap-up and review (1 session)

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2008
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Presentation Assignments