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Through both her dances and writings Agnes de Mille explored what it means to be American. I argue that, in addition to the explicitly America-themed material de Mille chose, her choreography performs national identity through its use of gesture – informed by de Mille’s interest in folk dance and the collective unconscious. When looking at much of de Mille’s choreography, one is visually struck by its Americanness. It is this act of recognition that begins this enquiry: how does one see de Mille’s choreography and recognize its intrinsic Americanness? How did de Mille’s choreographic process allow for the expression of national identity through gesture? These questions are explored through an analysis of de Mille’s ‘Civil War Ballet’ from Bloomer Girl (1944).


This article was originally published in Studies in Musical Theatre 6:3 (September 2012): 325-333. DOI: 10.1386/smt.6.3.325_1

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