Around the globe, dances that originate in village, temple, and court rituals have been adapted and transformed to carry secular meanings and serve new national purposes. In stage performances, dance competitions, and festivals worldwide, dance has become an emblem of ethnicity and an index of national identity. But what are the “backstage” stories of those dances chosen to bear such meanings, and what have been the consequences for their communities of origin? In Dance and the Nation, Susan A. Reed brings to light the complexities of aesthetic politics in a multi-faceted exploration and analysis of Kandyan dance in Sri Lanka.
As the national dance of Sri Lanka, Kandyan dance is identified with the majority Sinhala ethnic group and heavily supported by the state. Derived from the kohomba kankariya—an elaborate village ritual performed by men of the hereditary drummer caste—the dance was adopted by the state as a symbol of traditional Sinhala culture in the post-independence period. When state officials introduced the dance into the school curriculum, it was opened to individuals of all castes, and high-caste women have emerged as prominent teachers and performers. Reed’s evocative account traces the history and consequences of this transition from ritual to stage, situating the dance in relation to postcolonial nationalism and ethnic politics and emphasizing the voices and perspectives of the hereditary dancers and of women performers.
Although Kandyan dance is related to other south Asian dance forms, it is unique, distinguished by an elegant, energetic style, and lively displays of acrobatics and agility. The companion DVD includes unparalleled footage of this vibrant dance in ritual, stage, and training contexts, and features the most esteemed performers of the Kandyan region.
Special Citation book award, Society for Dance History Scholars
Winner, Outstanding Publication Award, Congress on Research in Dance
Election campaigns, political events, and national celebration days in Malawi usually feature groups of women who dance and perform songs of praise for politicians and political parties. These lively performances help to attract and energize throngs of prospective voters. However, as Lisa Gilman explains, “praise performing” is one of the only ways that women are allowed to participate in a male-dominated political system.
Although political performances by women are not unique to Malawi, the case in Malawi is complicated by the fact that until 1994 all Malawianwomen were required to perform on behalf of the long-reigning political party and its self-declared “President for Life,” Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda+. This is the first book to examine the present-day situation, where issues of gender, economics and politics collide in surprising ways. Along with its solid grounding in the relevant literature, The Dance of Politics draws strength from Gilman’s first-hand observations and her interviews with a range of participants in the political process, from dancers to politicians.
Challenging conventional understandings of time and memory, Christopher T. Nelson examines how contemporary Okinawans have contested, appropriated, and transformed the burdens and possibilities of the past. Nelson explores the work of a circle of Okinawan storytellers, ethnographers, musicians, and dancers deeply engaged with the legacies of a brutal Japanese colonial era, the almost unimaginable devastation of the Pacific War, and a long American military occupation that still casts its shadow over the islands. The ethnographic research that Nelson conducted in Okinawa in the late 1990s—and his broader effort to understand Okinawans’ critical and creative struggles—was inspired by his first visit to the islands in 1985 as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Nelson analyzes the practices of specific performers, showing how memories are recalled, bodies remade, and actions rethought as Okinawans work through fragments of the past in order to reconstruct the fabric of everyday life. Artists such as the popular Okinawan actor and storyteller Fujiki Hayato weave together genres including Japanese stand-up comedy, Okinawan celebratory rituals, and ethnographic studies of war memory, encouraging their audiences to imagine other ways to live in the modern world. Nelson looks at the efforts of performers and activists to wrest the Okinawan past from romantic representations of idyllic rural life in the Japanese media and reactionary appropriations of traditional values by conservative politicians. In his consideration of eisā, the traditional dance for the dead, Nelson finds a practice that reaches beyond the expected boundaries of mourning and commemoration, as the living and the dead come together to create a moment in which a new world might be built from the ruins of the old.
Dark Mattermaps the invisible dimension of theater whose effects are felt everywhere in performance. Examining phenomena such as hallucination, offstage character, offstage action, sexuality, masking, technology, and trauma, Andrew Sofer engagingly illuminates the invisible in different periods of postclassical western theater and drama. He reveals how the invisible continually structures and focuses an audience’s theatrical experience, whether it’s black magic in Doctor Faustus, offstage sex in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, masked women in The Rover, self-consuming bodies in Suddenly Last Summer, or surveillance technology in The Archbishop’s Ceiling. Each discussion pinpoints new and striking facets of drama and performance that escape sight. Taken together, Sofer’s lively case studies illuminate how dark matter is woven into the very fabric of theatrical representation. Written in an accessible style and grounded in theater studies but interdisciplinary by design, Dark Matter will appeal to theater and performance scholars, literary critics, students, and theater practitioners, particularly playwrights and directors.
Pilipino Cultural Nights at American campuses have been a rite of passage for youth culture and a source of local community pride since the 1980s. Through performances—and parodies of them—these celebrations of national identity through music, dance, and theatrical narratives reemphasize what it means to be Filipino American. In The Day the Dancers Stayed, scholar and performer Theodore Gonzalves uses interviews and participant observer techniques to consider the relationship between the invention of performance repertoire and the development of diasporic identification.
Gonzalves traces a genealogy of performance repertoire from the 1930s to the present. Culture nights serve several functions: as exercises in nostalgia, celebrations of rigid community entertainment, and occasionally forums for political intervention. Taking up more recent parodies of Pilipino Cultural Nights, Gonzalves discusses how the rebellious spirit that enlivened the original seditious performances has been stifled.
From the late 1980s to the present, artists of Filipino descent in the United States have produced a challenging and creative movement. In The Decolonized Eye, Sarita Echavez See shows how these artists have engaged with the complex aftermath of U.S. colonialism in the Philippines.
Focusing on artists working in New York and California, See examines the overlapping artistic and aesthetic practices and concerns of filmmaker Angel Shaw, painter Manuel Ocampo, installation artist Paul Pfeiffer, comedian Rex Navarrete, performance artist Nicky Paraiso, and sculptor Reanne Estrada to explain the reasons for their strangely shadowy presence in American culture and scholarship. Offering an interpretation of their creations that accounts for their queer, decolonizing strategies of camp, mimesis, and humor, See reveals the conditions of possibility that constitute this contemporary archive.
By analyzing art, performance, and visual culture, The Decolonized Eye illuminates the unexpected consequences of America's amnesia over its imperial history.
Artists in the Soviet Union faced a difficult choice: either join the official academies and make art that conformed to the state’s aesthetic and ideological dictates, or attempt to develop alternative artistic practices and spheres for exhibiting their work. In the early 1970s, conceptual artists Ilya Kabakov and Viktor Pivovarov chose the latter option, turning their limited resources into an asset by pioneering an entirely new artistic genre: the album. Somewhere between drawings and novels, Kabakov and Pivovarov’s albums were also the basis for unique performance pieces, as the artists invited select audiences to their Moscow apartments for private readings and viewings of the albums, helping to cultivate an alternative artistic community in the process.
This exhibition catalog brings together Kabakov and Pivovarov’s key works for the first time, putting the two artists in dialogue and recreating their artistic community. It not only includes nearly hundred pages of full-color illustrations, but also provides complete English translations of the Russian texts that appear in the volume, plus new interviews with each artist. Taken together, they give viewers a new appreciation of the different aesthetic strategies each artist used to depict the absurdities of everyday life in the Soviet era. Published in partnership with the Zimmerli Museum.
Discipline and Desire examines how surveillance technologies, when placed within the frames of theater and performance, can be used to critique and reimagine the politics of surveillance in everyday life. The book explores how rapidly proliferating surveillance technologies, including drones, CCTV cameras, GPS tracking systems, medical surveillance equipment, and facial recognition software, can be repurposed through performance to become technologies of ethical witnessing, critique, and action.
While the subject of surveillance continues to provoke fascination and debate in mainstream media and academia, opportunities to critically reflect upon and, more importantly, to imagine alternative, creative responses to living in a rapidly expanding surveillance society have been harder to find. Author Elise Morrison argues that such opportunities are being created through the growing genre of “surveillance art and performance,” defined as works that centrally employ technologies and techniques of surveillance to create theater, installation, and performance art. Introducing readers to a broad range of surveillance art works, including the work of artists and activists such as Surveillance Camera Players, Jill Magid, Steve Mann, Hasan Elahi, Wafaa Bilal, Blast Theory, Electronic Disturbance Theater, George Brant, Janet Cardiff, Mona Hatoum, and Zach Blas, Discipline and Desire provides a practical and analytical framework that can aid the diverse pursuits of new media-arts practitioners, performance scholars, activists, and hobbyists interested in critical and creative uses of surveillance technologies.
A dynamic account of the history, practice, and theory of poetry as performance.
Distant Reading considers poetry as performance, offers new insights into its popularity, and proposes a new history of its origins. It also explores related issues concerning the reception of poetry, the impact of the computer on how we read poetry, the persistence of the letter "I" in poems by avant-garde poets, the strangeness of the line-break as a demand on the reader's attention, and the idea of the reader as consumer. These themes are connected by a historically contextualized and theoretically sophisticated discussion of contemporary American and British poets continuing to work in the modernist tradition.
The introductory essay establishes a new methodology that transforms close reading into what Middleton calls "distant reading," interpretive reading that acknowledges the distances that texts travel from their point of composition to readers in other geographical and historical locations. It indicates that poetic innovation is often driven by a desire on the part of the poet to make this distance do cultural work in the meanings that the poem generates.
Ultimately, Distant Reading treats poetry as a cultural practice that is always situated within specific sites of performance—recited on stage, displayed in magazines, laid out on a page, scrolled on the computer screen—rather than as a transcendent cloud of meaning tethered only to its words.
Winner of the 2007 Otto Kinkeldey Award from the American Musicological Society and the 2007 Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
Divas and Scholars is a dazzling and beguiling account of how opera comes to the stage, filled with Philip Gossett’s personal experiences of triumphant—and even failed—performances and suffused with his towering and tonic passion for music. Writing as a fan, a musician, and a scholar, Gossett, the world's leading authority on the performance of Italian opera, brings colorfully to life the problems, and occasionally the scandals, that attend the production of some of our most favorite operas.
Gossett begins by tracing the social history of nineteenth-century Italian theaters in order to explain the nature of the musical scores from which performers have long worked. He then illuminates the often hidden but crucial negotiations opera scholars and opera conductors and performers: What does it mean to talk about performing from a critical edition? How does one determine what music to perform when multiple versions of an opera exist? What are the implications of omitting passages from an opera in a performance? In addition to vexing questions such as these, Gossett also tackles issues of ornamentation and transposition in vocal style, the matters of translation and adaptation, and even aspects of stage direction and set design.
Throughout this extensive and passionate work, Gossett enlivens his history with reports from his own experiences with major opera companies at venues ranging from the Metropolitan and Santa Fe operas to the Rossini Opera Festival at Pesaro. The result is a book that will enthrall both aficionados of Italian opera and newcomers seeking a reliable introduction to it—in all its incomparable grandeur and timeless allure.
This book is a study of August Strindberg’s famous drama Miss Julie, presented in both Swedish and English. Since it was first performed in 1888, Miss Julie has became one of the most successful plays written by Strindberg, widely considered one of the pioneers of modern drama. The book provides a penetrating analysis of the author’s text, followed by a close investigation of Ingmar Bergman’s much lauded 1985 production at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. Drama as Text and Performance is intended as a paradigmatic illustration of similarities and differences between the two media—textand performance and their recipients, readers and spectators.
Winner, 2017 American Theater and Drama Society John W. Frick Book Award
Winner, 2017 ASTR Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theater History
Hillary Miller’s Drop Dead: Performance in Crisis, 1970s New York offers a fascinating and comprehensive exploration of how the city’s financial crisis shaped theater and performance practices in this turbulent decade and beyond.
New York City’s performing arts community suffered greatly from a severe reduction in grants in the mid-1970s. A scholar and playwright, Miller skillfully synthesizes economics, urban planning, tourism, and immigration to create a map of the interconnected urban landscape and to contextualize the struggle for resources. She reviews how numerous theater professionals, including Ellen Stewart of La MaMa E.T.C. and Julie Bovasso, Vinnette Carroll, and Joseph Papp of The Public Theater, developed innovative responses to survive the crisis.
Combining theater history and close readings of productions, each of Miller’s chapters is a case study focusing on a company, a production, or an element of New York’s theater infrastructure. Her expansive survey visits Broadway, Off-, Off-Off-, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, community theater, and other locations to bring into focus the large-scale changes wrought by the financial realignments of the day.
Nuanced, multifaceted, and engaging, Miller’s lively account of the financial crisis and resulting transformation of the performing arts community offers an essential chronicle of the decade and demonstrates its importance in understanding our present moment.
Efficiency. Innovation. Results. Accountability. These, advocates claim, are the fruits of performance management. In recent decades government organizations have eagerly embraced the performance model—but the rush to reform has not delivered as promised.
Drawing on research from state and federal levels, Moynihan illustrates how governments have emphasized some aspects of performance management—such as building measurement systems to acquire more performance data—but have neglected wider organizational change that would facilitate the use of such information. In his analysis of why and how governments in the United States have made the move to performance systems, Moynihan identifies agency leadership, culture, and resources as keys to better implementation, goal-based learning, and improved outcomes.
How do governments use the performance information generated under performance systems? Moynihan develops a model of interactive dialogue to highlight how performance data, which promised to optimize decision making and policy change for the public's benefit, has often been used selectively to serve the interests of particular agencies and individuals, undermining attempts at interagency problem solving and reform.
A valuable resource for public administration scholars and administrators, The Dynamics of Performance Management offers fresh insight into how government organizations can better achieve their public service goals.