Dance as performative public history? : A journey through Spartacus
de Matos, C. (2020). Dance as performative public history? : A journey through Spartacus. Circa: the Journal of Professional Historians, 2020 (7), 27-33.
Can modern western dance be seen by historians as a public performance of the past? This article explores this question in relation to the ballet Spartacus, with particular reference to its Australian contexts. Despite dance being known as a conduit to share knowledge and history in non-western cultures, many historians seem reticent to acknowledge its same potential in modern performances such as ballet and contemporary dance. Yet, as with film, there seems to be much potential to engage with dance in terms of how it interprets the past, how it communicates these interpretations to an audience, and how an audience receives that knowledge and experience. Further, a performance or a piece of choreography can be a historical artefact itself, revealing to historians something of the times in which it was created. Through an examination of the visual intertextualities and cultural contexts of the ballet Spartacus, with particular reference to the 1990/2002 and 2019 versions in Australia, this article will reveal the potential offered to historians by studies of modern dance and its capacity to interpret and communicate social and political issues – even without the words we are usually so dependent upon.
history, modern Western dance, interpretation, communication, social issues, political issues