Some of the material in is restricted to members of the community. By logging in, you may be able to gain additional access to certain collections or items. If you have questions about access or logging in, please use the form on the Contact Page.
This investigation presents an analysis of three expressive dance works created between 1900 and 1920 as projects of the Early Modern avant-garde. The dances chosen were Incense (1906) by Ruth St. Denis, Gnossienne (1919) by Ted Shawn, and L'Après-Midi d'un Faune by Vaslav Nijinsky. While Shawn and St. Denis were American dance artists at the forefront of modern dance development, Nijinsky presented both a European cultural and ballet tradition response to the avant-garde. These dances were chosen from the standpoint of their similarities. All three are short, emotionally intense, and referent to internal conditions significant to the artist-creator. Each dance centrally features the artist-creator as the intermediary between the work and the audiences and addresses avant-garde concerns in Early Modernism. And these dances were formed as self-contained modular units capable of packaging and marketing in context with both popular entertainments and serious concert art works. Five issues engaged in the avant-garde response to Modernism are delineated for the purposes of this study. These issues are exoticism, spiritualism, distortions of time and space, naturalism, and responses to technological advances. Each of the three dances is discussed in relation to these issues, bringing them into theoretical discussion with other mediums. This scope of analysis facilitates discussion of dance as a culturally expressive behavior, and the close relationships between European and American developments in decorative design (Art Nouveau and Art Deco). The treatment of the definition of Modernism permits comparison of the similarities and differences among a wide range of avant-garde expressions and clarifies the dynamics of exchange between popular and serious performing art venues.