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“The Ancient East in the West End”: Margaret Morris and Angkorr (1917) at the London Coliseum

Posted: November 30th, 2021 | No Comments »

An especially interesting article by Anne Witchard of the University of Westminister available via open access in the latest edition of Feminist Modern Studies (Volume 4, 2021 – Issue 3: Feminist Modernist Dance Studies)….click here to read…

Given that Fauvist, Futurist, Rhythmist and Vorticist painting and sculpture took dance and the dancer as an endlessly inspirational point of departure in their exploration of what Clive Bell termed “significant form,” Modernist scholarship has remained neglectful of the mutual borrowings of this synaesthetic relationship. “Above all let us dance and devise dances” wrote Bell, enthused by Henri Bergson’s espousal of rhythmic sequence and gesture in dance to illustrate his philosophy of time, durée and individual consciousness. Modern dance for Bell was on a par with primitive art, “the highest art form” because it too “dispenses with attempts to be representational” (Art 1914). In London’s avant-garde reordering of aesthetic merit, Asia no longer stood for stasis, but the static perfection of the transcendental. While Jacob Epstein’s scandalous assault on London’s architecture at one end of the Strand continued to reverberate, his iconoclastic abandonment of the Greek in favor of East Asian forms found its aesthetic counterpart in Margaret Morris’s ballet Angkorr at the Coliseum Theatre some blocks away. This paper aims to situate Morris within these Bergsonian influenced movements and to position British Modernist dance as a core element of their innovations.

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