John Cooper – 18th September – Art / Performance / History

'Spanish Dance. (El Jaleo de Cadix.)'

‘Spanish Dance. (El Jaleo de Cadix.)’ (mid 19th C, New York) hand-coloured lithograph, N. Currier (publisher) Victoria and Albert Museum

John Cooper, a phd candidate in the Art History department, co-convenor of the PSWG and Graduate Research Assistant at the Yale Center for British Art, will workshop a part of his dissertation Imperial Balls: the Arts of Sex, War and Dancing in India, England and the Caribbean, 1800-1850.

This session will present a body of colonial images drawn from India, England and the Caribbean which show dancers dancing from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  These medium-sized graphic works on paper broadly represent: nautch dancing in India, ballet in England and social dancing in the Caribbean. Being the remains of both art works and performances, what particular status do they have in the history of art and empire? How might the disciplines of Art History and Performance Studies collaborate to produce readings of such interdisciplinary documents?

The starting point for addressing an answer to these questions will be the practice of ‘adornment’ which lies nested and as yet unclaimed in the etymology of the word ‘performance’. Close visual analysis of key images in the history of art, dance and empire will investigate how context adorns the dancing figure with the complexity and contradictions of colonial history.

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