Ideas of nature, the natural and the modern in early twentieth century dance discourse
This chapter examines the way dance writers in the first two decades of the twentieth century negotiated ideas of the natural. Discourses around nature, the natural and the modern were extensively debated during this period, which was one of rapid and disturbing social and technological transitions. It was also a period during which there were deep anxieties around notions of the health or degeneracy of the body, this being an issue in which the state had a particular bio political investment. It is proposed that discourses about dancing at this time reveal an antinomy between two different notions of the natural. The first of these is concerned with investigations within the natural sciences: for example Charles Sherrington, Jakob von Uexküll . The second manifested itself as a call to get back to nature that could sometimes betray implicitly reactionary tendencies. The chapter will trace the way unacknowledged concerns about modernity and the consequences of developments in the natural sciences, particularly those dealing with embodied perception and motor functioning, conditioned the developing discourse about natural or free dancing in writings by authors such as Crawford Flitch and Lady Richardson. The wider context includes ideas of the natural as espoused by Macfadden, Sandow and Mensendieck. It then compares this approach to the way later writers involved in the development of dance education and training negotiated ideas of the natural and new scientific ideas to explore new approaches to the practice of dance. This complex discourse can be found in the writings of authors such H’Doubler, Alexander and Todd. It permeates the writings of those concerned with dancing, the self, and the body—and is expressive of a moving forwards at the start of a new century.
Citation : Huxley, M. and Burt, R. (2011) Ideas of nature,the natural and the modern in early twentieth century dance discourse. In: Carter, A. and Fensham, R. eds. Dancing Naturally. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 31-42
ISBN : 9780230278448
Research Group : Dance Research
Research Institute : Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- School of Arts