Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 September 2020
This chapter by Marian Wilson Kimber explores the relation between music, dance and poetry in late nineteenth-century amateur dance performances in the United States, specifically Delsarte. With reference to little-known archival sources (musical scores, photographs, programme leaflets and educational guides), Wilson Kimber examines how elocutionists combined their recitation with posing in imitation of ancient Greek statuary. These performances grew from the expressive physical fitness movement named after the nineteenth-century French musician and teacher Delsarte. The practice is itself rooted in elocution, recitation or public speaking that was a common form of entertainment on programmes with chamber music throughout the United States. To the accompaniment of hymns, women recited and posed to entertain one another, but also with the goal of self-improvement. Describing these practices, Wilson Kimber articulates a historical case of what we might call choreographic legitimization, considering ways in which dancers sought to elevate the seemingly suspect status of their art with reference to ancient Classical values and sacred music.