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French Interwar Dance Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 August 2016


Mark Franko
Affiliation:
Temple University

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Interwar French dance and the critical discourses responding to it have until recently been an underdeveloped research area in Anglo-American dance studies. Despite common patterns during the first half of the twentieth century that may be observed between the dance capitals of Berlin, Paris, and New York, some noteworthy differences set the French dance world apart from that of Germany or North America. Whereas in Germany and the United States modern dance asserted itself incontrovertibly in the persons of two key figures—Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, respectively—no such iconic nativist modernist dancer or choreographer emerged in France. Ilyana Karthas's When Ballet Became French indicates the predominance of ballet in France, and this would seem an inevitable consequence of the failure of modern dance to take hold there through at least one dominant figure. Franz-Anton Cramer's In aller Freiheit adopts a more multidimensional view of interwar French dance culture by examining discourse that moves outside the confines of ballet. A variety of dance forms were encouraged in the milieu of the Archives Internationales de la Danse—an archive, publishing venture, and presenting organization—that Rolf de Maré founded in Paris in 1931. This far-reaching and open-minded initiative was unfortunately cut short by the German occupation (1940–1944). As Cramer points out: “The history of modern dance in Europe is imprinted with the caesura of totalitarianism” (13). Although we are somewhat familiar with the story of modern dance in Germany, we know very little about it in France.


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Review Essay
Copyright
Copyright © Congress on Research in Dance 2016 

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References

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