This freshman seminar explores the intricate history of Western fascination with non-white bodies in motion, from representations recorded in early ethnographic films to contemporary portrayals of the moving body in Hollywood films, videos, documentaries, and concerts. We will examine how expectations projected onto these bodies have shaped contemporary discourses on gender, race, and culture. Finally, the seminar will expose students, with or without prior experience, to the joy of watching, analyzing, creating, and presenting their own performances.
Our approach to a wide variety of cultural materials and readings will be divided into three units. The first unit, Body as Culture, will focus on representations of “otherness” as recorded by European ethnographers since the late 1890s. The second, Body as Commerce, will focus on the implementation of FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy in Hollywood musicals, including those featuring Brazilian performer Carmen Miranda. The final unit, Body as Art, will explore the rich New York dance field from the early days of modern dance to trends of contemporary dance today.
We will travel to New York City for one field trip to see a performance, which will likely take place on a Friday or Saturday during the semester. A guest artist who was involved with the beginning of “voguing” will visit our class to discuss his experiences as a voguer and his days at the Harlem Balls.
Open to Freshmen Only. No prior dance experience required. Enrollment by application or interview. Departmental permission required.