Dance elsewhere

The fascination with non-European dance that emerged in the first third of the twentieth century was primarily disseminated through the medium of photography. Spectacular in their “foreignness” and sensually appealing, the depictions of bodies perceived as “exotic” displayed “other” bodily techniques, gestures, and movements. Dancers from faraway lands such as Japan, Java, and India as well as the “danse nègre” stimulated the imagination, facilitating new creations in dance between the ecstasy of movement and the will to form.

Beyond their visual and artistic appeal, these images also illustrate the period’s characteristic endeavors to shake up hitherto dominant Eurocentric cultural models. These efforts united regionally based ethnological fieldwork, biological and social notions of the human in anthropology, and works of art and dances premised on “naturalness” and an alleged “return to origins.”

Dance elsewhere not only enriched European dance practices, it moreover helped foster new approaches to thinking and writing about dance. The attention to foreign dance, also reflected in the collections and magazines of the era, reveals a perception of dance as a diverse form of art and medium of transnational communication as well as national assertiveness.