Dance is a weapon


Curator of the exhibition: Claire Rousier
Scientific Curator: Victoria Phillips Geduld
Graphic design of the exhibition: Agnès Dahan

In February 1932, six politically active modern dance female students formed the New Dance Group and performed during a Communist rally in Manhattan. Dancing in union and concert halls, they addressed the Great Depression's pressing national issues, from hunger to homelessness and from unemployment to racial segregation. Far from just Agitprop, they were directly connected to the New York leftist intelligentsia and gravitated towards the artistic tenets of modern aesthetics.

In 1936, the New Dance Group broke with the communist party and one of its members declared: “We were not Communists. We just believed everything they believed.” However the group kept on defending left-wing ideas. In the late 1930s the group performed in mainstream venues, initiating a process that culminated in Broadway in 1948. Therefore protest dances formed a cultural front that ultimately became politically unsustainable in the Cold War.

In America during the Cold War and the Witch Hunt, which targeted artists considered as subversive, any in-depth studies on the political ties between the New Dance Group and the communist party were hindered. To protect the members of the Group, dancers and historians smartly concealed and avoided to mention the New Dance Group’s early ties with the radical left. This exhibition recreates the past of the Group, highlighting the interaction between the history of American dance and politics in the United States.