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Dancers as DiplomatsAmerican Choreography in Cultural Exchange$
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Clare Croft

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199958191

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199958191.001.0001

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Too Sexy for Export or Just Sexy Enough?

Too Sexy for Export or Just Sexy Enough?

Martha Graham Dance Company on Tour

(p.105) Chapter 3 Too Sexy for Export or Just Sexy Enough?
Dancers as Diplomats

Clare Croft

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers how Martha Graham’s dancing and choreography functions as a limit case for American freedom in the history of cultural diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy often exported images of “freedom” as a hallmark of American society. Graham’s work, sometimes characterized as “sexy,” became an example of the kind of daring work that could be created in an American context as it challenged norms around women’s performance of gender and sexuality, but it also—especially when it became a congressional target for censorship for those challenges to sexual norms in 1963—showed the limits of freedom. The work was, in the end, not too sexy, but just sexy enough. Too, Graham created and passed on to her dancers “the diva stance,” a disordering of gender norms done explicitly through the body. Specifically, the chapter focuses on Graham’s Phaedra, and the company’s performances in Asia in 1974, specificay performances of Graham’s Diversion of Angels.

Keywords:   Martha Graham, Phaedra, Diversion of Angels, Martha Graham Dance Company, Cold War, diva stance

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