The Politics of Dancing:
A Study of Ballet as a Political Tool
Classical Corps de Ballet
Neoclassical Corps de Ballet
Music Credits: "The Tender Land Suite" by Aaron Copeland
Recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Costumes: Classical costumes curtesy of Artistic Motion School of Arts
Lighting Design: Sarah Parks
Special Thanks: Jen Guy Metcalf, JP Mullican, Lynn Angermeier, Sarah Parks, and Cat Beal
As an artist, I am a storyteller. I believe there is truth and power in sharing narratives that give people an understanding of humanity that can otherwise be overlooked. I aim to create and perform dances that share insight into other ways of thinking, living, and behaving. Art should promote compassion and appreciation for all walks of life. My dance background lies in classical ballet, where performances tell a story. When I was six years old, a professional performance of The Sleeping Beauty first exposed me to the expressive potential of ballet. Even though I did not fully comprehend the meaning of the movement, I understood the characters’ feelings and the story being shared. This later influenced my research methodology as both a performer and choreographer. Identifying with the emotions of the characters being created or portrayed helps captivate audiences, connecting them with the overall feeling driving the movement.
Dance and the performing arts have always played essential roles in my life, but I am also passionate about history and politics, with particular interest in the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. During this era, everything was political and strictly controlled by the government. Artists were completed controlled by the regime, but still found ways to pursue their personal agendas, political or otherwise. All of this makes me question how ballet can be made political in the United States today. This research has allowed me to fuse together my passion for the arts and fascination with the USSR. My hope is that this research shows evidence that all art is political, regardless of the time period in which it is created. I want to study the effectiveness of using art to either challenge or reflect society.
During their reign, leaders of the Soviet Union relied heavily on art censorship as a tool to further their political agenda. Specific messages were intentionally woven throughout each work of art, including dance. This research investigates the Soviet Union’s use of ballet as political propaganda, popularizing Soviet ideals and lending expression to opinions that could not be voiced. By creating and utilizing a new dance analysis chart, this research explores how Soviet ballet choreographers attempted to shift, disrupt, and manipulate the perception of audience members, government leaders, and performers. Furthermore, a choreographic analysis of Soviet ballets served as a framework in designing a new choreographic work exploring today's political climate in the U.S. I am creating this work by drawing from my analysis of the underlying political motives and intentions behind ballets sponsored by the Soviet state. Following the performance of this work in early April, demographic and opinion surveys of audience members will be used as an essential element of my process to explore the perception, attitudes, and current trends surrounding partisanship as presented through dance. The findings from these surveys will aid in my goal of uncovering the role of ballet in influencing the perception of political and social ideologies in modern day America.
This choreographic work is the culmination of my undergraduate research project that explores the importance of ballet as a political tool. Specifically, this ballet will utilize classical and neoclassical styles to investigate the audience's biases and ideologies surrounding American nationalism. Themes woven throughout the choreography include culturalism, nationalsit primordialism, and self-determination.