Review Of "The People Have Never Stopped Dancing: Native American Modern Dance Histories" By J. Shea Murphy

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Coeditor (with Ellen Goellner) of Bodies of the Text (CH, Oct'95, 33-0847), Shea Murphy (Univ. of California, Riverside) uses written and choreographed texts, oral histories, and interviews to investigate ways dance documented and supported Native American histories and practices from the late 19th century to the present. Beginning with an exploration of 19th-century US and Canadian Native performances and federal responses to--and restrictions of--them, the author demonstrates the contradiction between efforts to curtail authentic ritual dances and the simultaneous construction, by Europeans and Euro-Americans, of an imagined concert-stage Indian. She interrogates how works by modern dance pioneers (Ted Shawn, Martha Graham, Lester Horton) accessed Native American archetypes and beliefs for choreographic inspiration. The book concludes with an examination of ways various Native artists in Canada and the US draw on traditional and contemporary dance vocabularies and structures, creating concert choreography that comments on cultural connections and addresses social/political concerns. Enriching a dialogue begun by Jamaka Highwater's Ritual of the Wind (1977) and Native American Dance: Ceremonies and Social Traditions, ed. by Charlotte Heth (CH, Jul'93, 30-6248), this major work is marked by fluid analysis and rigorous research. It includes extensive endnotes and some 30 black-and-white photographs. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.


This work is freely available courtesy of Choice Reviews. The review has been reproduced in full in the abstract field.

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