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In May 1931 the ballet Sahdji premiered at the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York: with a libretto by Harlem Renaissance's Alain Locke and Richard Bruce Nugent, music by composer William Grant Still, the ballet by Thelma Biracree, and dedicated to the Eastman School's Howard Hanson, the work was set in Africa and performed by dancers in blackface. In 1934 the work was performed with an all-black cast in Chicago and revived in Rochester through 1950. Sahdji demonstrates that the participants shared two tenets: the desire to create high art, and the belief in African forms to achieve artistic aims. Locke and Nugent had a small shared world that included Lincoln Kirstein. Locke wrote about The Rite of Spring, and Sahdji became Locke's African answer to Spring. Sahdji begs for a reinvigoration of dance history that credits philosophical underpinnings of the American ballet to the Harlem Renaissance and its queer connections.
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