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Dancing the Dialectics of Change: American Site-Specific Dance as Public History in the Twentieth Century

Walthall, Caroline

American Archaeology, and Plimoth Plantation highlight the physical and phenomenological similarities between two performance traditions of expressing history in geographic context—two traditions which otherwise have highly differing degrees of popular and scholarly recognition as “history.” They are comparable representations in that they are performance-based, site-specific, and historically oriented. Both are interested in seeking meaning in the tasks and interactions of everyday life. They aim to engage audiences in untraditional ways and their “choreography” and designs are based on research. Both might be considered responses to a sense of loss or to cultural feelings of nostalgia. Both are instances of performing history in public. Nonetheless, the specificity of Monk‟s local audience, her choice to let movements communicate more than words, and her willingness to work with the performance site as-it-was, all differentiate the practices of site-specific dance from those of conventional living history seen in outdoor museums. Works like Monk‟s American Archaeology deserve to be considered under the umbrella of living history for the ways they engage with local change. But site-specific dance work also warrants recognition and analysis for the different representational approaches that it employs, mainly: moving bodies in space and time.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
American Studies (Barnard College)
Dance (Barnard College)
Thesis Advisors
Kassanoff, Jennie A.
Garafola, Lynn
Degree
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
May 26, 2011
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