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By Helen Thomas

Via reading the advance of contemporary dance within the united states within the inter-war interval, Thomas develops a framework for analysing dance from a sociological standpoint. She applies her method of, between others, St Denis, Ted Shawn, and Martha Graham.

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Sample text

The primitivism of Primitive Mysteries is generated through the idea of formal ritual, the solemnity of the procession, moving in a circle in unison, and the use of whole body movement juxtaposed with segmental movement. The dance takes the core of the rituals and transforms them into the context of a choreographic format through distortion, stylisation, rhythm and so on. Similarly, although Humphrey drew heavily on aspects of the rituals and beliefs of the Shaker sect for her dance The Shakers (1931), the work does not constitute an authentic reflection of the reality of Shakerism.

In 1684 a group of Boston ministers, headed by increase Mather, made clear their attitudes towards dancing in a treatise called An Arrow Against Profane and Promiscuous Dancing, Drawn out of the Quiver of The Scriptures (see Miller and Johnson 1938:411–12). While the tract condemned ‘Gynecandrical’ or ‘Mixt or Promiscuous Dancing’ (men and women dancing together), it also implied that dancing could be a means of teaching good body carriage, posture and grace, if it were taught by a stern teacher and the pupils were segregated by sex.

The central focus of the penultimate chapter is an analysis of Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring which entails a detailed examination of a particular section of the work. The concluding chapter draws together the sociological issues raised by the examination of the development of modern dance in America in terms of both its extrinsic and intrinsic features. 28 2 THEATRICAL DANCE IN AMERICA FROM THE EIGHTEENTH TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY The major cause of the lack of any significant theatrical activity and development in America prior to the mid-eighteenth century and, therefore, by implication, the latent development of professional art dance, is often attributed to Puritan denunciations of the arts and entertainment (Cole 1942, Kraus and Chapman 1981).

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