Thanks to the Ray Travel Award, the Arts & Humanities Small Grants and the OSU Department of Dance Semester Funding Initiative, I have just returned from the 2018 Dance Studies Association conference, a meeting of international dance scholars and practitioners in Valletta, Malta.
My paper compared the experiences of the Syrian-Lebanese population with those of modern dance choreographers, José Limón (an immigrant from Mexico) and Anna Sokolow (a second generation Russian Jew), in the United States between 1918 and 1961. While Limón, Sokolow, and Syrian-Lebanese Americans all developed whiteness in unique ways, comparing them illuminates a critical dissimilarity. Through archival materials, secondary texts, and Edward Said’s theory, which identifies orientalism is a western construction designed to control Arab people, I show that Syrian-Lebanese Americans were confined to oriental dance while Limón and Sokolow were able to dance their American and ethnic identities. Why could Limón and Sokolow bridge theracial gap, but not Lebanese Americans?
Modern dance intertwined with leftist politics in the 1930s and created a space for immigrants to perform American identities while maintaining their ethnic roots. I argue that the Lebanese diaspora’s disassociation with the political left excluded them from the Leftist Dance movement within which Limón and Sokolow prospered. Therefore, their political views prevented them from representing their bodies as American, and confined them to presenting oriental bodies. These findings problematize lumping diasporas in the United States into one unified minority. Rather, I suggest examining the unique experiences of each minority group in the United States as we uncover who had access to American modern dance.
“it is not that there isn’t space, but the unwillingness to give up the space.”
- “discomfort is essential if any of this matters”
- “displacement does not equal replacement”
- risk taking is essential, but this is not the sole responsibility of the people of color. “How do we collectivise that risk?” Some suggested deliberate mentorship and applying for money to fund other people (with Crofts Queer Dance as an example).