Society of Dance History Scholars Announces
the de la Torre Bueno Prize® winner for 2011
Modernism’s Mythic Pose: Gender, Genre, Solo Performance
by Carrie J. Preston
The Society of Dance History Scholars announces the 2011 winner of the de la Torre Bueno Prize for the best English language writing on dance historiography. The Bueno Prize has been awarded annually since 1973 to the year’s most distinguished book of dance scholarship. Named after José Rollins de la Torre Bueno, the first university press editor to develop a list in dance studies, the Bueno Prize has set the standard for scholarly excellence in the field for more than thirty years. Society of Dance History Scholars takes special pride in awarding the Bueno Prize, through which we recognize the labor and achievement rigorous scholarship in dance historiography demands regardless of the era, genre, or performers investigated. Congratulations are due, indeed, to the winner, and her publisher.
The 2011 award goes to Modernism’s Mythic Pose: Gender, Genre, Solo Performance by Carrie J. Preston (Oxford University Press). Preston is currently an Associate Professor of English at Boston University.
The 2011 award committee writes, “Carrie J. Preston offers a thorough, rigorous, interdisciplinary analysis of Delsartism-- the popular transnational movement which promoted mythic statue-posing, poetic recitation, and other hybrid solo performances for health and spiritual development; a movement that was largely organized by women, and that shaped modernist performances, genres, and ideas of gender.” The award committee continues:
Conceived by the French movement visionary Francois Delsarte, who developed an acting style connected the inner emotional experience of the actor with a systematized set of gestures and movements based upon observations of human interaction, Delsartism and its theories of the body formed the groundwork for the techniques of early modern dancers Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and Rudolf Laban. The core of Delsarte’s technique was the mythic pose-- a bodily attitude imitating an ancient statue, a poetic pose that repositions a character from myth to current life. Mythic posing, “an imagined rupture in time,” was part of a search for a reunified body and soul that modernity seemed to have severed. Drawing on examples from literature, dance, photography, and film, Modernism’s Mythic Pose forwards the idea that the ancient world served as an unconventional source of inspiration for a generation of modernists; and argues that a strain of anti-modern classicism permeates modernist celebrations of novelty, shock, and technology.
Most illustrative for the field of dance studies, Preston holds forth on the power of the body in performance; how poetic rhythms and emotions invoke bodily expressions; and the origins of poetry and poetic cadence in dance and dance rhythms. She most exquisitely considers the solo dance performances of Isadora Duncan, whose processes of representation entwined Delsartian poses with live music, stylish décor/costume, and curtain call speeches that comprised a modernist manifesto foreshadowing proto-feminist performance practice.
Preston’s book is a bold, visionary, articulate effort that brings dance modernism into wider conversations and reminds us of the utterly definable presence of the body in expressive modes of performance as well as in metaphysical and materialist discourse.
The committee for the 2011 prize comprised Susan Foster (World Arts and Cultures, UCLA) and Anita Gonzalez (Theatre Arts, SUNY New Paltz), with Constance Valis Hill (Dance, Hampshire College) as chair.
The award will be presented at a special ceremony sponsored by SDHS in 2013.