We are very happy to announce that Harmony Bench and Kate Elswit have been awarded a two-year Battelle Engineering, Technology, and Human Affairs (BETHA) grant for their collaborative project “Dance in Transit,” which applies the tools of data analysis to the domestic and international touring of dance companies circa 1900-1950. In particular, this project emphasizes the necessary relation between touring performers and the modes, networks, and infrastructures of transportation that link cities, countries, and cultures. “Dance in Transit” builds on and extends Bench’s ongoing Mapping Touring project, utilizing data gathered in that context and combining it with a new focus on the life, work, and travels of mid-century African American choreographer Katherine Dunham. Dunham conducted anthropological research throughout the Caribbean, toured domestically and internationally with her dance company, and traveled to film sites for her work in Hollywood productions. Focusing on Dunham will give us the opportunity to evaluate the systems of transportation and other support structures that enable dance touring and the spread of movement cultures, allowing us to discern patterns and areas for research that dance scholars have not yet explored. Recognizing that big data is swiftly changing research in the sciences and social sciences, and, increasingly, in the humanities, “Dance in Transit” seeks to leverage the tools and methods of data analysis toward new, critical engagements with the historical record in the fields of theater, dance, and performance studies. This collaborative work will stand as a model for data-driven humanistic inquiry in the performing arts, and will further help scholars to understand the impact of itinerant performers on the development of arts and performing arts cultures. For more information, see Dance in Transit.
Screenshot from Dance Fields: Staking a claim for dance studies in the 21st century. https://vimeo.com/216839589#t=65