“The Double Life of Pagan Dance: Indigenous Rituality, Early Modern Dance, and the Language of US Newspapers”


What can be made of the fact that American early modern dancers employed
the term ‘pagan dance’ to describe their practices, ideologies, and aesthetics
when they were surrounded by a public discourse that disparaged Indigenous
dance through the very same label? When used to describe Indigenous
ritual dances, the term ‘pagan dance’ performed a complete cultural
recontextualisation upon whatever Indigenous dance that was its object
— transforming each dance into a justification for a US settler-colonial and
anti-Indigenous stance. However, when adopted by early modern dancers,
the term ‘pagan dance’ could be received by the US public as a revitalisation
of ancient spiritualism and a garnering of ‘native’ ritual knowledge. Tracking
the term through American newspapers at the turn of the twentieth century,
this article investigates the bifurcation of a ‘pagan dance’ vocabulary that
conditioned dance’s social and spiritual reception in the US.

Access the article at the European Journal of Theatre and Performance (No. 3), September 2021.
Explore the visualisations in-depth at the Zenodo online repository.

Figure 7 (left):
Alluvial Graph of Initial ‘Dataset of Terms and Tropes’. Article Theme or Type, Population Described, Terms Used, and Article Trope of ‘paganism’. The dataset highlights the predominance of ‘historical’, holiday, and preacher articles on ‘pagan dance’ in historical newspapers. Christian-historical and descriptions of Indigenous dance dominate language of ‘pagan dance’ discourse in the dataset. Developed in collaboration with Jan-Erik Stange and Franziska Diehr by use of Open Refine and RawGraphs.
Figure 8 (right):
Alluvial Graph of ‘pagan dance’ articles by newspaper, year, and theme. This graph provides a more detailed look at what kinds of newspapers were consulted from the digital archive, from what years, as well as the diversity of article themes/types produced.  Developed in collaboration with Jan-Erik Stange and Franziska Diehr by use of Open Refine and RawGraphs.
%d bloggers like this: