By Helen Thomas

By way of interpreting the improvement of recent dance within the united states within the inter-war interval, Thomas develops a framework for analysing dance from a sociological standpoint. She applies her method of, between others, St Denis, Ted Shawn, and Martha Graham.

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Chapter 2 examines the history of theatrical dance in America from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. The processes of change which, in part, enabled the FORMULATING A SOCIOLOGY OF DANCE 27 beginnings of a serious theatrical dance to emerge in America are discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 sets out the concerns of the major forerunners of American modern dance and their attempts to have dance taken seriously in their own society. Included in this chapter is an examination of the relationship of dance to the other arts in America and Europe around the turn of the century.

However, the Puritans did not object to the use of instrumental music on certain social occasions or in the home (see Chase 1955:3–21). They decried singing when it was associated with ‘bawdy’ or ‘obscene’ songs and they opposed the use of music ‘as an incentive to wanton or lascivious dancing’ (Chase 1955:7). It is also clear that the Puritans regarded learning and literature in the highest esteem. In 1636, within six years of settling in the New World, the founders of the Boston Bay Colony established the foundations of Harvard College.

Aaron Copland (1953), for example, recalled that when he and other young American composers began to look for ‘a usable past’ upon which to develop an American style of music in the 1920s, they found that there was none. Academic music, in America, like dance, had been founded on the European tradition and American composers were generally considered second rate in comparison to the Europeans. As we saw with The Black Crook, in order to attract an audience for dance in America during the nineteenth century it was deemed necessary to advertise the dancers as foreign, particularly French or Italian (in the twentieth century this dominance was supplanted by a Russian monopoly, much to the annoyance of such balletomanes as Lincoln Kristein who were trying to generate an American style of ballet in the 1930s).

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