By Mary Simonson
Whereas lady performers within the early twentieth century have been usually marketed as dancers, mimics, singers, or actresses, they wove jointly innovations and parts drawn from a large choice of genres and media. Onstage and onscreen, performers borrowed from musical rankings and narratives, observed modern indicates, motion pictures, and occasions, and mimicked fellow performers. backstage, they experimented with cross-promotion and new ads options and applied sciences to broadcast photos and stories in their performances and lives way past the partitions of yankee theaters, cabarets, and halls. The performances and conceptions of paintings that emerged have been leading edge, compelling, and deeply meaningful.
Body Knowledge examines those performances and the performers in the back of them, highlighting the Ziegfeld Follies and The Passing convey revues, Salome dancers, Isadora Duncan's Wagner dances, Adeline Genée and Bessie Clayton's danced histories, Hazel Mackaye and Ruth St. Denis's pageants, and Anna Pavlova's opera and picture initiatives. As an entire, it re-imagines early twentieth-century paintings and leisure as either fluid and convergent.
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Additional info for Body Knowledge: Performance, Intermediality, and American Entertainment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
As viewers, our eyes are directed toward the show within the film, and it is easy to momentarily lose track of the outer narrative. But when Peck’s wife storms into the theater a moment later, beating him over the head with everything in sight (including a conveniently positioned stand-up bass), the spell is broken. She drags him home, and then, plot twist of plot twists, stages her own version of a Salome dance. Mixing jig steps, ungraceful jumps, unfortunately aimed kicks, and violent arm swings, Mrs.
88 Here, performance is also read as a site in which histories can be staged, restaged, and reenvisioned. Yet even as these possibilities are emphasized, “performance” and “the body” take on such an amorphous, intangible quality that practical or historical application seems difficult, if not undesirable. Such scholarship seems to hint that the “power” of performance and the performing body—much like the “power” of liveness—lies in their mystique. Certainly, live performance and performers have always carried a certain magic; certainly, too, the world of possibilities that performance offers us in eschewing traditional ways of reading works, actors, and histories can seem a bit like an enchanted wonderland.
Performers who are the focus of one chapter are often conjured in others; venues and medial practices reappear in wildly different contexts, and themes and ideas crisscross the text. Some of these relationships are intentional; others emerged in the course of writing. Still others likely remain hidden in the gaps that doubtlessly exist between the performances and performers discussed. The early twentieth-century American revue sought to re-create and negotiate the modern experience in both form and content; so too does this book attempt to perform its own tales, offering multiple layers of commentary on the era, its stages and screens, and the audiences and performers who mediated them.