Chapter 10 Imported Influences in America in the early 20

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Chapter 10 - Imported Influences in America in the early 20th century

I. The turn of the century began with the assassination of President William McKinley and America entered in to World War I. Prohibition and speakeasies ended in financial disaster. Mass production of the automobile created mobility for Americans and the invention of the telephone, television and washing machine changed communication and leisure time. Women gained the right to vote and became part of the work force.

A. During the 1800's rich American had emulated European fashion and styles but in the twentieth century, American began to develop an independence from European influence and the creation of the individual American style was due primarily to the emancipation of women.

1. Ragtime was both a musical and a dance influence based on syncopation which changed the gliding and swirling of the ballroom into catchy and energetic rhythms.

2. Irene and Vernon Castle were a young, married dancing couple who created hundreds of new steps before World War I.

a. Their dances brought protests from ant-dance people who claimed that their


dances would lead to intimacy and loose morals but the Castles performances gave dance a fresh, wholesome appeal that increased peoples interest in dance.

3. The Tango combined cultural elements from Africa, Native America and Latin dances with popular Argentine music in late 19th century Buenos Aires and was a highly sensual, erotic dance. This caused many people to be outraged by its performance.

4. The Fox Trot was invented in 191 by Arthur Carringford, whose stage name was Harry Fox. In the middle of New York vaudeville performances, with his company, the American Beauties, Fox would trot through the performers, then pause to tell the audience a joke. His two slow walks followed by four quick steps became known as Fox Trot and was an easy dance which became part of social dance.
C. By 1917 Chicago became known as the worlds jazz center. George Gershwin and Cole Porter broke the barriers between concert hall and popular music. The Roaring Twenties boasted dances such as the Charleston, black bottom and shimmy. There were dance marathons and fad dances.
D. The origins of the Charleston are unclear but it was an energetic and popular


dance of the mid 1920's. It is performed in 4/4 time and was the most energetic dance since the can-can and the American craze spread to Europe.
II. Russo-American Ballet. Dance scholar and author Lincoln Kirstein coined the term of Russo-American Ballet because touring Russian artists had made such an artistic influence on American artists and there was a need for an American ballet.
A. The Russian influence began with the U.S. debuts of Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Mordkin at the New York Metropolitan Opera House in 1910. The Pavlova touring group and later Diaghilev exposed American Artists to legitimate ballet. Russian dancers who were touring with Diaghilev decided to stay in America. Many of these dancers were also contemporaries of Michel Fokin and his ideas and so, the influx of well-trained artists provided a foundation and inspiration in America that would last for most of the century.
B. Michel Fokine (1880-1942) was first a member of the Maryinsky Ballet and then joined Diaghilevs Ballet Russes as a dancer and choreographer creating the ballets Les Sylphides, Firebird and Petrouchka. He left the Ballet Russes because he was not receiving sufficient credit for his work but rejoined two years later.


Fokine and his wife eventually moved to New York to live and they opened a dance school and Fokine worked on and off Broadway. Fokine is responsible for bringing the male dancer back as the central figure in ballet. Many people believe he was influenced by Isadora Duncans expressive approach to dance and choreography.
C. Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) achieved the rank of prima ballerina in the Maryinsky Theatre before she began dancing in the United States and Europe. She also joined Diaghilevs Ballet Russe for its first season in Paris. She created her own company that included experimental dances as well as classical ballets. Pavlova was a dancer of great genius who influenced and inspired dancers and dance teachers all over the world. Even people who had never seen a ballet knew her name and what a ballerina was because of her dancing.
D. Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950) joined the Ballet Russes in 1908 and astounded audiences with his elevation and soaring leaps in Fokines choreography. When Fokine left the company, Nijinsky advanced to the position of choreographer. His first ballet, LAprès-midi dun faun (Afternoon of a Fawn) with music by Debussy was an unconventional ballet and the explicit sexual overtones outraged even


sophisticated audiences in Paris. His next work was Le Sacre de Printemps (The Rite of Spring) that made new demands on performers of classical ballet. Nijinsky was a civilian prisoner in his wifes native Austria-Hungary during the early part of World Wat I. In 1916 Nijinsky assumed the roles of director, ballet master and premier danseur of the Ballet Russe. The second season proved to be too much for him and the tour was a disaster leading him into a nervous collapse and he spent the remainder of his life in a mental institution. Regardless, he was a phenomenal dancer of his time and his choreographic contributions were in keeping with the avant-garde nature of Diaghilevs company.
E. Léonide Massine (1896-1976) was a protégé of Diaghilev and became chief choreographer of Ballet Russe through 1921as Nijinskys replacement. He choreographed over a hundred dances during his career and collaborated with Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Erik Satie for his ballet Parade. The Diaghilev company folded after his death in 1929 and Massine joined the Colonel W. de Basils Ballet Russe as choreographer and toured for many years. He emigrated to the United State where he became artistic director of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and choreographed for many European companies. Like Fokine, many of Massines works were restaged without his permission. Massines dances were


inventive and choreographically sound with sensitivity to the music. His symphonic work Choreartium to Brahams Fourth Symphony was considered controversial because he used a movement style similar to early modern dance.
F. Bronislava Nijinska (1891-1972) was Vaslov Nijinskys sister and they were both part of a family of Russian dancers. She joined the Maryinsky Theatre and then Diaghilevs Ballet Russe in 1910. She and her brother founded a company in London without much success and then she returned to the Ballet Russe in 1921 to begin her choreographic career with Diaghilev and her signature piece from the time is Les Noces. She choreographed for many companies and then emigrated to the United States in 1938 and started a school in Los Angeles and continued to choreograph.
G. As ballet changed from a court-subsidized entertainment to a recognizable force in the 20th century, Serge Diaghilev (1871-1929) is credited with being a visionary impresario to shape ballet. Diaghilev had intended to study law but also had interest in music and painting and literature. When he was introduced to ballet, he devoted himself to creating a company and continued as impresario until his death. He brought together outstanding artists of his time and was determined


to show Russian Art to the West. Each season was more dazzling and provocative than the last. He did not have direct subsidy at first, but then the Imperial Theatres loaned him artists, sets, scenery and costumes. Diaghilev raised money for his productions from private patronage for the arts. He had a tremendous long-term influence on 20th century ballet, dancers and choreographers.
H. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) composed some of Diaghilevs most important ballet scores including Firebird, Petrouchka, Le Sacre du Printemps, Le Noces, Apollon Mustaète and he also composed musical scores for Balanchine and the New York City Ballet. Stravinsky was the most distinguished composer to write for ballet since Tchiakovsky. His complex inventive scores used atonal and dissonant sounds as well as angular and polyrhythms which reflected the influence of the artistic period of cubism. Stravinsky met George Balanchine who was the Ballet Russes last choreographic star. Balanchine and Stravinsky worked together before both emigrating to the United States where they worked together for forty years creating some of the finest ballets of the 20th century.
IV. At the end of the 19th century a new art form was developing called new dance since the term modern dance had not yet been coined. New dance


was a blending of many dance forms from other countries including concepts, techniques and stage setting and was a response to ballet which had a rigid formula of steps and poses.
A. François Delsarte had a system of poses and gestures to display emotions and an actress and teacher, Genevieve Stebbins, taught this method and influenced Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn.

1. New dancers wanted movement to be authentic and about real people instead of fairy-tale princes and princesses. They dance barefoot in flowing dresses that allowed freedom instead of tutus and tights and pointe shoes and corsets. They employed scarves as props and extensions of their movements. New dancers were the forerunners of what became modern dance.

B. Loie Fuller (1862-1928) was born in America and was a singer and actress. Fuller went to Europe to develop an audience for her dancing which had evolved from her participation in theatrical productions of drama. She was popular in Europe and known as La Loie and sought after by artistic circles. She had a fascination with the use of material and lighting effects which enhanced her movement and appealed to audiences in the art nouveau period. She was a


visionary of developing the use of theatrical techniques to produce an artistic statement with dance. Rival to Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller was a realist and founded a school and company Loie Fuller and her Muses to allow her to expand her artistic ideas.
C. Isadora Duncan (1878-1927) was born in San Francisco as Dora Angela. She began her career as a show dancer in Chicago and then joined Loie Fullers company in Paris but left because of artistic differences. Unlike Fuller, Isadora used few technical effects and her art concentrated on her movement which was motivated by emotion and her charismatic personality. She established a school in Germany, France and Russia where students were trained in gymnastics and encouraged to express themselves through movement. Three of her students continued to perpetuate her work and called themselves The Isadorables but Isadora had not developed a system of codified technique for her followers but rather concepts and principles that were the basis for others to develop their art. She believed in making movement organic rather than decorative and never did the same dance twice. Isadora enjoyed fame in Europe but her work was not as readily accepted in the United States. In addition to a successful performing

career, she also had a rich personal life, although filled with much tragedy.
D. Ruth St. Denis (1877-1968) is known as The First Lady of American Modern Dance and was a contemporary of Isadora Duncan. Her given name was Ruth Dennis and she grew up on a farm in New Jersey. She had an interest in the expression of religious and mystical themes and Eastern philosophy. Her mother was a student of Genevieve Stebbens and taught her Delsarte elocution and movement, but mostly she was a self-taught dancer. She started as a skirt dancer in vaudeville where she started to use the more exotic name of St. Denis. Ruth St. Denis created a series of solos based on her studies of Oriental dances and deities and religious personas from exotic places. She toured England, France and Germany. In 1914, she married Ted Shawn and the following year, the couple established the Denishawn School in Los Angeles out of which the first generation of modern dancers bloomed including Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. From 1921-1925 Denishawn was the highest paid and most noteworthy dance company in the United States and they also toured internationally. Ruth St. Denis was able to provide sophisticated yet popular entertainment to audiences.
E. Ted Shawn (1891-1972) was born in Kansas City, Missouri and was a


Methodist theological student. After an illness, he was advised to exercise to regain his health and he developed an interest in dance as well as promoting male dancers. After he separated from St. Denis in 1931, he established an all male company (1933), Ted Shawn and His Male Dancers. The group toured the United States performing Shawns choreography until 1940. After the company disbanded, he established Jacobs Pillow on his property in Lee, Massachusetts. Jacobs Pillow became a summer intensive study for modern dance students and quickly became known as an international prestigious dance center which encouraged the filming of dance works. Shawns choreography explored Native American culture, themes and forms. His main focus was the restoration of the male to a central role in dance.
V. Dance in education evolved in colleges at this time and began with aesthetic dance in physical education for women. Margaret HDoubler instituted the first dance major at the University of Wisconsin in 1926.


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