Dancing for Democracy: How Dance Influenced the Cultural Conversation of the Cold War

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Matthew Farmer, Hope College

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During the international cultural exchange that occurred during the mid-20th century—the period of after World War II ended in 1945 and before the height of the Cold War in 1957—dance and other performance arts were used as a means of political propaganda. Though many arguments tensions existed between the Soviet Union and the United States, perhaps one of the more understated forms of struggle was each power’s use of dance to reveal the benefits of either capitalism or communism. To demonstrate how dance could play a significant role a political conflict, I will show how the “Western” and often overtly democratic content of Agnes de Mille’s ballet Rodeo was utilized to highlight the differences between Russian ballet and American dance and to promote the values of Western capitalist nations at the time.

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