Escaping, experiencing, and challenging modernity in modern dance culture: How translating the American modern dance culture enabled Dutch dancers to reflect on the modernisation of the society 1910-1940
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This thesis examines the relation between modernity and the American amusement dances that became popular in the Netherlands in the early twentieth century– such as the Charleston, foxtrot, shimmy, and tango. This research illustrates that cultural critics, the government, professional dancers, and parents took up a critical attitude towards the perceived origins of these dances: the ‘impersonal American mass culture’ and the ‘instinctive sexuality’ of people descending from South-America and the black community in the United States. In contrast to the current literature, I argue that their critique was not a traditionalist rejection of the modernity that these dances were said to symbolise. Instead, by approaching this history with transcultural theory, I illustrate that these authority figures were engaged in translating these dances and the modern norms that they embodied, to make them ‘suitable’ for the European audience. In doing so, they contributed to the creation of and reflection on a modern self-image. In addition, by shifting the focus from persons and intuitions that wanted to regulate the modern dance culture, towards the experiences of the actual dancers, I show that many participants were attracted to the dances because of their associations with the Caucasian American, African-American and Latin other. I argue that these dancers experienced an embodiment of these others when they practiced the new dance culture, and that these imitations or experiences of transcultural others enabled them to experience, escape, create, reflect on, or challenge modernity.