Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lincoln in Dance Form

Now, as a museum professional, I normally turn to things like exhibits (brick-and-mortar or online), educational programs, and publications to educate the public about an historical topic. However, I recently reconsidered historical learning based on something written by an old friend of mine, Anna.

We've known each other since we were about two years old and she recently completed her MFA in dance performance. She's since moved to L.A. and started a blog featuring her thoughtful reviews of local dance performances. In October, she posted a review of a performance called "
Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray," danced at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. As she so aptly puts it:
Bill T. Jones’ Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray moves through the legends, impressions and famous words of Abraham Lincoln to discover a man and his enduring relevance and challenge to America. Fondly Do We Hope pursues this admirably ambitious vision with a deluge of projected and spoken text, riveting performance of an original musical score, bits of video, and glorious dancing.
I think I like this. Anna's review of the performance does a great job assessing its merits from the perspective of a dance scholar. I would obviously have to see the performance myself to sum it up from a historian's point of view, but I like the idea, at least.

I'm sure I'm oversimplifying things, but it seems to me that one of the great things dance can do is convey emotion. And one of the great things the teaching of history can do is help us connect with people in the past. So, accompanied with the proper framework of historical context, I can see a performance like this as a powerful tool to both teach about history and help the audience relate to a great man like Lincoln and the very human emotions he experienced in his vaunted life.

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