Under the Angle: Memory, History, and Dance in Nineteenth-Century Medievalism
Nineteenth-century Europe was treated to the spectacle of numerous performance genres imaginatively representing the Middle Ages. In portraying this period, music, theatre, visual spectacle, and dance all displayed simultaneous impulses toward historical inquiry and text, on the one hand; and a more nostalgic, less historically specific evocation of the past, on the other. Dance, however, makes a unique contribution to this understanding of the nineteenth century's Middle Ages. Unlike these other genres, dance does not simply conflate nostalgia and historical record. Rather, the dancing body enables a highly specific articulation of each of these components, and it visibly demonstrates how they alternate between supporting and destabilising each other. Through gesture, I shall argue, dancers in motion both integrate and differentiate between historical textuality and memorialising nostalgia. Dance thus offers a form for describing a complex but controlled process of interaction between these components. To make this case, I focus on Marius Petipa's late-nineteenth- century ballet Raymonda in conjunction with other performance.
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