Acting Ancient: Hellenism, Pageantry, and American Modernity

Mary Simonson

in Body Knowledge

Published in print September 2013 | ISBN: 9780199898015
Published online January 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780199369683 | DOI:
                   Acting Ancient: Hellenism, Pageantry, and American Modernity

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Conceptualized as a return to the pure, communal, spiritual experience of ancient art, pageants have long been understood as a divergence from other early twentieth-century art and entertainment forms. Yet in many American pageants performed in the early twentieth century, Hellenism was suggested through diverse intermedial mixture of newly created and familiar music, text, movement styles, visual art, and narratives: allegorical female characters clad in Grecian garb offered Delsarte-based “descriptive dances” based on ancient statuary and hieroglyphics to reorchestrated excerpts from nineteenth-century opera and other European art music. This chapter discusses a series of pageants staged by Hazel Mackaye, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, and students at women’s colleges. In each, the ancient world was not an escape from reality; rather, it served as a conduit through which modern debates about women’s education, suffrage, and body politics were negotiated.

Keywords: american pageants; hazel mackaye; delsarte; hellenism; ruth st. denis; ted Shawn; denishawn; women’s education; suffrage

Chapter.  14481 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Dance ; American Music

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