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A Plebeian Politics of the Belly
Dance Chronicle  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-01-02, DOI: 10.1080/01472526.2018.1565026
Sharon Kivenko

The extensive body of literature about the imbrication of nationalism, postcolonial nation building, and cultural production points to how the performing arts have offered the state a populist means by which to “legitimate” and “publicly perform their ‘stateliness.’” Since the mid-twentieth century, state-sponsored music, dance, theater, and television productions, as well as “folk” arts and music festivals, have offered ideal platforms where newly (re)forming nation-states “remember,” “imagine,” and project what it means to be a people bound by a shared past and a shared vision for the future. In Staging Ghana: Artistry and Nationalism in State Dance Ensembles, Paul Schauert contributes to this discussion with his examination of the role of the Ghana Dance Ensemble (GDE) in embodying, transmitting, and fortifying Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of a unified independent Republic of Ghana. Inspired by Senegalese independence president L eopold S edar Senghor’s 1961 establishment of the Ballet National du S en egal and Guinean independence president S ekou Tour e’s 1958 nationalization of Les Ballets Africains, Nkrumah saw two main value propositions in state-sponsored performance ensembles: first, that they would serve as tools of “cultural nationalism”—“the use of art and other cultural practices to maintain national sentiment” (p. 15)—by representing, through song, dance, and theater, a nation to its citizens; and second, that they would promote and “propagate” Nkrumah’s understanding and vision of African