Dance and Authoritarianism: These Boots Are Made for Dancing

Intellect. Mar. 2021. 312p. ISBN 9781789383522. pap. $33. MUSIC
Dance may be an international language, and it is sometimes co-opted by other forces, writes Shay (dance and cultural studies, Pomona Coll.; Choreographic Politics: State Folk Dance Companies, Representation and Power). Examining the ways that “elements of politics—authoritarianism, ethnicity, and nationalism—interact with dance,” Shay asserts that this art form is often used as propaganda in authoritarian regimes, in which the public spectacle of dancers in costumes of ethnic or national import is meant to symbolize the populace’s support for the state. He looks at Franco’s Spain and the Sección Femenina and escuela bolero (a mix of ballet and folk dance); Trujillo’s Dominican Republic and its use of merengue; and Tito’s Yugoslavia and Lado (the State Ensemble of Folk Dances and Songs of Croatia), as well as dance companies in Iran and Uzbekistan. Shay’s research is thorough, and his observations are insightful. Striking photographs and an extensive bibliography complement this rich and fascinating book.
VERDICT An important resource for students and anyone interested in world cultures, dance and performing arts, or the intersection of art and politics.
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