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Title: Dancing for the World: Articulating the National and the Global in the Ballo Excelsior’s Kitsch Imagination
Authors: Adamo, Sergia
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Sergia Adamo, "Dancing for the World: Articulating the National and the Global in the Ballo Excelsior’s Kitsch Imagination", in: Guido Abbattista (edited by), “Moving Bodies, Displaying Nations National Cultures, Race and Gender in World Expositions Nineteenth to Twenty-first Century”, Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2014, pp. 143-172
In the multifarious complexity of discourses opened up by nineteenth century
world exhibitions the role of the moving body has a relevance that still deserves to be
investigated. In this realm, dance performances of different types stand out as significant
moments that not only often accompanied the success and marked the memory of specific
exhibitions; they also constructed and reproduced a particular kind of discursivity that
lies at the core of the whole world exhibitions “phantasmagoria of capitalist culture”
(Benjamin). Among others, the Italian Ballo Excelsior, which premiered in Milan in
1881, is one of the most significant cases, a great global success aimed at spreading
the ideology of ‘progress and civilization’ first to the Italian newborn nation and then
all over the world. It somehow anticipated the First National Exhibition, introducing
the audiences not only to its ideological stances, but also to the forms of reception and
perception the exhibition would impose. The essay traces, first of all, the link with
the 1881 Milan exhibition, reconstructing the circumstances of the first staging of the
ballet and its national reception. Then, the nexus between the ballet’s aesthetic and
ideological features is analyzed, both from the specific point of view of dance history
and from the broader perspective of cultural studies, also discussing the definition of
‘kitsch’ aesthetics, often mentioned in relation to this work. Thereafter, the essay looks
at the global success the ballet had in the years to follow, highlighting the changes it
underwent, both at an ideological and formal level, in order to meet the expectations
of this new dimension through an articulation of the national and the global. Finally,
it proposes some reflections on how this articulation is also an imagination of a framed diversity, an artifact whose structure frames otherness into a phantasmagoric
construction, something which deeply characterizes the kind of Western discursivity
world exhibitions are a part of.
Type: Book Chapter
ISBN: 9788883035821
eISBN: 9788883034923
Appears in Collections:Moving Bodies, Displaying Nations. National Cultures, Race and Gender in World Expositions 19th to 21st Century

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