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Orientalized Aztecs: Observations on the Americanization of Theatrical Dance
Dance Research Journal  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-08-14, DOI: 10.1017/s0149767719000172
K. Mitchell Snow

The opening decades of the twentieth century saw a passing fashion for “Aztec” dancing in the vaudeville theaters of the United States. Russian classical dancers Kosloff and Fokine tapped the orientalist currents of the Ballets Russes, adopting the Aztec as superficial signs of the American. Conversely, works by Shawn and film director Cecil B. DeMille, which served as points of reference for the Russians, represented a continuation of equally orientalist attitudes toward Mexico's past, forged during the realization of the United States’ policy of Manifest Destiny. The emergence of a cadre of trained dancers from Mexico, trained by students of Kosloff and Shawn, would bring a distinctively different perspective on the presentation of their heritage to the dance stage, one that was no longer based in the imagination of an expansionist America.