Funding footprints : U.S. State Department sponsorship of international dance tours, 1962-2009
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Since the middle of the twentieth century, American dance artists have presented complicated images of American identity to world audiences, as dance companies traveled abroad under the auspices of the US State Department. This dissertation uses oral history interviews, archival research, and performance analysis to investigate how dancers navigated their status as official American ambassadors in the Cold War and the years following the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. Dance companies worked and performed in international sites, enacting messages of American democratic superiority, while individual dancers re-interpreted the contours of American identity through personal encounters with local artists and arts practices. The dancers’ memories of government-sponsored tours re-insert the American artist into American diplomatic history, prompting a reconsideration of dancers not just as diplomatic tools working to persuade global audiences, but as creative thinkers re-imagining what it means to be American. This dissertation begins in the late 1950s, as the State Department began discussing appropriate dance companies to send to the Soviet Union, as part of the performing arts initiatives that began in 1954 under the direction of President Dwight Eisenhower. The dissertation concludes by examining more recent dance in diplomacy programs initiated in 2003, coinciding with the US invasion of Iraq. My analysis considers New York City Ballet’s 1962 tour of the Soviet Union, where the company performed programs that included George Balanchine’s Serenade (1934), Agon (1957), and Western Symphony (1954), and Jerome Robbins’ Interplay (1945) during the heightened global anxieties of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My analysis of Ailey’s 1967 tour of nine African countries focuses primarily on Revelations (1960), which closed every program on the tour. Moving into the twenty-first century, I analyze A Slipping Glimpse (2007), a collaboration between Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and Tansuree Shankar Dance Company, which began as a US State Department-sponsored 2003 residency in Kolkata. To explore each tour, I consider government goals documented in archived minutes from artist selection panels; dancers’ memories of the tours, which I collected in personal interviews conducted between 2007 and 2009; and performance analysis of the pieces that traveled on each tour.