Dance, Gender and Nation: 1930–1960
Programa Estatal de Fomento de la Investigación Científica y Técnica de Excelencia Proyecto de I+D+i HAR2013-48658-C2-2-P
Dance, gender and nation, three closely bound concepts within the context of contemporary Western culture, and the thematic cornerstones of this seminar. The focal point is the period spanning the second third of the 20th century - a period of upheaval in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 1929 and the rise of the totalitarianism that would trigger the outbreak of the Second World War shortly afterwards.
The specific exploration of national identity and the allocation of gender in dance during the post-war period in Spain are at variance with two other approaches from highly divergent political and cultural contexts, with the aim of fostering international perspective and bolstering the comparison between traditional, popular and modern phenomena. On one side, there is an analysis of how Joséphine Baker, a popular 1930s icon, was received in Paris with all of her national and racial connotations, and her undeniable commercial allure. And on the other, an examination of the creation of modern Mexican dance in the 1950s by a generation of nationalist choreographers who, setting out from traditional and indigenous imaginaries, explored collective identity whilst also advancing new ways of constructing female bodies.
Furthermore, the seminar offers a reflection on memory and the modes of conservation and conveyance of choreographic heritage through the study of the recent programmes developed in Germany to reconstruct, archive and disseminate dance.
Finally, in conjunction with these these seminars, a workshop with a focus on research and choreographic reconstruction in the Spanish repertoire and a theoretical-practical approach will be held between October and December 2016. Participants will be made up of pupils from the Conservatorio Superior de Danza María de Ávila de Madrid, and the results will be published at the Museo Reina Sofía on 17 February 2017.
Cristina Cruces Roldán is head professor of the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Seville. Specialised in flamenco research, she has directed a Doctoral Programme specialised in this subject and she is the author of more than ninety publications in books and magazines, both in Spain and internationally, most notably the two volumes Antropología y Flamenco. She is the director of two R+D projects from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on the relationships between flamenco, the market, ethnicity and gender, and she is a researcher on the R+D+I project Danza durante la Guerra Civil y el franquismo (1936-1960): políticas culturales, identidad, género y patrimonio coreográfico (Dance during the Civil War and Francoism (1936–1960): Cultural Politics, Identity, Gender and Choreographic Heritage).
Isabelle Launay is a professor of History and Aesthetics in Contemporary Dance at the University of Paris 8. She has published À la recherche d’une danse moderne, Rudolf Laban et Mary Wigman (1996), with Boris Charmatz; Entretenir, à propos d’une danse contemporaine (2002); Undertraining, on a Contemporary Dance (2012); Les Carnets Bagouet (2008), with Sylviane Pagès; Mémoires et histoire en danse (2011), and with Marie Glon, Histoires de gestes (2012). She has also taught at the National Centre of Contemporary Dance, Angers, and has collaborated in a wide range of contemporary dance and art projects. She has worked for a number of years with the artist Latifa Laâbissi and has explored memory in choreographic pieces.
Beatriz Martínez del Fresno is head professor at the Department of Art History and Musicology at the University of Oviedo and a specialist in music and dance from the first half of the twentieth century. In 1996 at Universidad Española she opened up a new line of research on the history of dance, a field in which she has directed five national research projects. She has also coordinated the book Coreografiar la historia europea: cuerpo, política, identidad y género en la danza (2013), and currently directs the Research Group Music, Dance and Cultural Studies (MUDANZES) and is head researcher on the R+D+I project Danza durante la Guerra Civil y el franquismo (1936-1960): políticas culturales, identidad, género y patrimonio coreográfico (Dance during the Civil War and Francoism (1936–1960): Cultural Politics, Identity, Gender and Choreographic Heritage).
Guadalupe Mera Felipe is a professor of Dance Theory and History at the Conservatorio Superior de Danza María de Ávila de Madrid. She also holds a PhD from the University of Oviedo, a degree in Spanish Studies and Modern and Contemporary History from the Autonomous University of Madrid, and in performance from RESAD. She is also a graduate in Spanish Dance from the Royal School of Dramatic Arts and Dance, Madrid. She has performed as a dancer in a number of Spanish dance companies and worked as a dance teacher, as well as collaborating on a range of scientific publications with contributions on the history of dance in Spain. She also forms part of the R+D+I project Danza durante la Guerra Civil y el franquismo (1936-1960): políticas culturales, identidad, género y patrimonio coreográfico (Dance during the Civil War and Francoism (1936–1960): Cultural Politics, Identity, Gender and Choreographic Heritage).
Madeline Ritter is a lawyer, arts manager and dance curator. Between 1989 and 2004 she was the artistic director of Tanz Performance Köln (Cologne, Germany), an international production and programming platform for contemporary dance and new media. In 2004 she proposed national financing programmes for dance at the core of the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Tanzplan Deutschland, Tanzfonds Erbe), where she directs projects. In 2014 she launched Dance On, an initiative focused on the promotion of artistic excellence in dancers over forty years of age, whereby projects related to dance and age are addressed and developed. Moreover, she teaches cultural management classes at a number of European universities, and is the administrative vice-president of the Pina Bausch Foundation and a member of the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Advisory Board.
Margarita Tortajada Quiroz has a PhD in Social Sciences from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana and she has been a researcher at the National Centre for Research, Documentation and Information on “José Limón” Dance from the National Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico, since 1988. Her career combines her experience as a dancer and her academic training. Her publications have seen her offer reflections on dance theory, particularly on the history of Mexican dance, and she is a pioneer of gender studies in dance and the author of benchmark monographs such as Danza y poder (1995), La danza escénica de la revolución mexicana (2000), Danza y género (2001) and Las mujeres en la danza escénica (2001).
This introduction poses some of the questions raised by the seminar: Why does a dance take on the category “national”? How is the image of a nation constructed through choreography? Is a national style necessarily the outcome of homogenised politics? Does the nation have a gender? Are there different corporeal images for the nation-state and nation-people? Why have women’s bodies often been associated with tradition and territory? What agency capacity do the bodies that danced in a dictatorial political context have? What were the margins of silent resistance or transgression in patriarchal and strongly nationalised contexts?
Joséphine Baker was the first black dancer to achieve stardom. How did Baker react to the stereotypes of race, gender, nation and class, and what survival strategies did she employ when faced with the attributions these stereotypes imposed upon her? Through an analysis of the period stretching from 1925 to 1930 in the context of the Revue Nègre, there will be an examination of the inherently gestural and kinaesthetic movements with which the revue dancer revealed the traps of those categories that ensnared her. From the way in which she questioned the gaze, could Joséphine Baker not in fact have been a “toxic dancer” figure in the history of 20th-century dance?
Physical and technical knowledge in dance is passed down from generation to generation, from one “life sphere” to the next, from one body to another. Yet, in contrast to the other arts, dance does not possess uniform methods of register; there are writings about dance, choreographic notations and images but, as in performance movement, dance cannot be conserved. That said, the context in which it is produced and the social effect it gives rise to remain legible and are the subject of the practice of Tanzfonds Erbe (Dance Heritage Fund), created in Germany to facilitate the transmission of choreographies through innovative methods and in order to broaden the knowledge of “incorporated genealogies”.
The corporeal narratives and choreographies which, during Franco’s Spain, contributed to disseminating an archetypal identity around “the national” will be explored from an anthropological perspective, through diverse audiovisual registers that at one time acted as key media to establish images, clothing, choreographies and repertoires. Namely, the reification and “heritage status” of flamenco, its aesthetic and stylistic reconsideration and its association with an ideologically homogenising message.
Dance practices fostered by the Sección Femenina represented a phenomenon with a patent institutional and collective imprint under Franco’s dictatorship. Reinvented tradition was established as a bargaining chip with the Axis powers, and, shortly after, with the growing mass practice deployed by the organisation; dance took on a quality to represent the Falangist “way of being”, thus becoming a symbol of the new State from a nation-people perspective and for many years as a representation of the daily ritual of national unity and the bonds between regions. Through women’s education, songs and dances helped to embrace the sense of belonging to the homeland and to build a unique model of women. Moreover, the trips abroad made by choirs and dance groups from 1948 onwards served as a diplomatic mission geared towards recovering the image of the regime inside the foreign policy framework.
In the 1930s, the women-led Mexican dance scene broke through as women, who made up this specialist field, created memorable works in which they danced with a Mexican sentiment and linked their individual body to the social body, representing and reworking it and also projecting a genealogy. Those dancers and choreographers, active until the early sixties, signed up to a staunch nationalism which, as well as fuelling popular and indigenous culture, also made use of modern dance, enhancing the freedom of expression and the use of new technical strategies to construct the body. Equally, those artists knew how to build up ties of mutual understanding with creators of other arts, negotiate support from cultural bureaucracy and ensure the acceptance of the public, who applauded their work because they could identify with it.