Modernity and Regionalism in Chicago and Midwest Dance History

this begins in fall 2014.

Project Title:

Modernity and Regionalism in Chicago and Midwest Dance History

Dance MS Barzel Research Photo Bx 18, Chicago Opera Ballet, 1960
Chicago Opera Ballet dancers Orrin Kayan and Jeanne Armin, 1960, Midwest Dance Collection, Newberry Library.

Project Description:

This project documents and probes the history of dance in Chicago and the Midwest through the lens of questions of modernity and regionalism as they get embodied and networked. Beginning in the academic year 2014/2015, Dr. Michael J. Kramer (History/American Studies, Northwestern University) will serve as lead researcher and director of the Chicago Dance History Project. He will conduct video oral history interviews with participants in the Chicago dance performance world. Partnering with the Newberry Library (home of the Midwest Dance Collection, and other institutions, the Chicago Dance History Project will also coordinate the digitizing of materials about the history of dance in Chicago. We are primarily interested in two related issues: (1) histories of training and the kinds of embodied knowledges that are central to dance and (2) the story of networks both within Chicago and the Midwest and beyond the city and region to other parts of the United States and the world. Our aim is to construct a digital database of this material as a seedbed for producing digital mapping/narrative projects, a podcast series, exhibitions, books, articles, and other offerings about this history of dance in Chicago. As the database is developed, we will be designing prototypes, such as an examination of dance in Chicago in the early 1980s, so that digital archive development and its most productive uses can emerge in tandem. We view this as an archives-driven public/digital humanities project interested in examining dance history, the history of Chicago and the Midwest, and issues of modernity and regionalism from multiple vantage points across multiple cross-disciplinary perspectives and approaches. The digital database will ultimately be made available for scholarly research, for use by artists interested in constructing new works of art in multiple forms based on archival engagement, for dance programs, centers, and K-12 schools that wish to bring a deeper historical awareness to their dance pedagogy (and, just as importantly, for educators who might wish to bring dance into their teaching about Chicago and Midwest history), and for the general public.

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