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American SWANA: A Progressive Theatre Movement Soars

- By Jamil Khoury

Image: Kevork Mourad. By kind permission from the artist.

One of the most significant and exciting developments of 2019 and 2020 in the American theatre has been the formation of the Middle Eastern and North African Theatre Makers Alliance (MENATMA). Years of creating, organizing, theorizing, and advocating have culminated in an American Middle Eastern and North African theatre movement that amplifies MENA voices and strengthens BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) theatre makers. 

It is a movement to which we ascribe enormous ambition and hope; we will be politically and aesthetically progressive, elevate historical consciousness, and fight for justice long denied. We will do so as storytellers who toil in the medium of theatre, in all its live and digital forms...

Favorite Things

Beethoven's Little Song

- By Ashish Xiangyi Kumar

Photo: Taidō Shūfū, Ensō (Nineteenth century). Detail. Hanging scroll; ink on paper. 11 1/16 in x 24 5/16 in. Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Let’s talk about the last movement of Beethoven’s last piano sonata.

This is a very, very difficult thing to do.

One, because you’re already thinking of this piece as a masterpiece, because who wouldn’t, faced with the connotations of that first sentence? And there is nothing that burdens music like knowledge of its greatness. In fact such an extensive mythos has accreted around the final movement of the Op.111 Sonata—re: its sacredness, its expressive power, its nibbling at the boundaries of what we think of as the sonata, or even art—that it’s sometimes very hard to listen...

Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Mark Franko

The Offending Classic

Photo: Nikolai Aistov as the Rajah, Julia Sedova as Gamzatti and Pavel Gerdt as Solor (ca. 1902). Courtesy of the Marius Petipa Society.

We have recently seen a conflict over a Depression-era mural on the wall of a public school in San Francisco. It came under attack by the student body for its offensive content to minorities, even though the 1930s mural in question was by Russian leftist émigré artist Victor Arnautoff (hardly a household name) and was created as a protest against the injustice propagated by the United States of America against minorities.[1] A dead Native American at the feet of the first President of the United States is the offending element within this image. The irony in this image, which contests...

Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Nicole Duffy Robertson

Classic Sin: Ballet, Sex, and Dancing Outside the Canon

Photo: Valerie Robin and Fabrice Calmels in Gerald Arpino's Light Rain. Photograph by and courtesy of Herbert Migdoll.

What makes a ballet a classic? Is it earning a permanent place in the history books, or is it being worthy of the Herculean investment of hours in the studio, the tireless work of the dancers and coaches, the resources, media and marketing machine required to bring it to life, or both? Who decides, and more importantly, what goes into that calculus? Today the re-evaluation of the Western theatrical dance canon continues as ballet and modern dance are challenged in the academy.[1] In concert dance, these questions are a matter of survival: the performed...

Favorite Things

The Offending Classic

- By Joellen A. Meglin

Against Orthodoxies

Photo: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow, Blue, and Black, 1921, oil on canvas, 59.5 cm x 59.5 cm.[1]

I discovered George Orwell’s post-Hiroshima, early Cold War essay “Politics and the English Language” as I prepared to enter a doctoral program in dance.[2] It taught me that original thinking was going to have to be hard won, independent—my own choreography rather than learned repertory. Throughout my teaching career, I have often recommended this essay to students as an antidote to scholarly writing steeped in what Orwell calls “ready-made phrases”—jargon, orthodoxy, phrases that...

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