The 1940 ballet Black Ritual, choreographed by Agnes de Mille to Darius Milhaud’s La Création du monde, was performed in the first season of Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) by a cast of sixteen African American dancers. This was the first staged version of La Création du monde in the United States, although the score was known and recognized as a significant use of jazz by a major European composer. In contrast to the creation story of the original ballet, de Mille’s scenario depicted a human sacrifice in an imaginary “primitive” Afro-Caribbean culture. The reception was shaped by expectations about race and genre: for white dance critics such as John Martin and Walter Terry, Black Ritual was neither a true ballet nor “authentic” black dance, but their counterparts in African American newspapers celebrated it as a contribution to racial uplift. Although the performers have been dismissed as amateurs, the majority of the cast came to the production with a variety of dance training and professional experience, including Maudelle Bass, Lawaune Kennard, and Lavinia Williams, and some joined Katherine Dunham’s dance company shortly after Black Ritual.
Publications and Conference Papers
“Ballet, Race, and Agnes de Mille’s Black Ritual.” The Musical Quarterly 97, no. 3 (2014): 390–428.
“Redefining Ballet: Race and Genre in the Reception of Agnes de Mille’s Black Ritual.” American Musicological Society – Southeast Chapter, April 2013, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.
Drum and Bugle Corps
In 2011, I completed a Master’s thesis on the controversy surrounding the introduction of electronic amplification into Drum Corps International competitions beginning in 2004. At that time, supporters of amplification viewed it as a way to expand creative possibilities and make drum corps more viable in the twenty-first century, while many opponents considered it a threat to the future of drum corps as a unique activity with a strong connection to its history and traditions. In this thesis, I situate the controversy in the history of technological change and resistance in drum corps, examine the ideology and values behind the amplification ruling and the varied responses to it, and consider intersections between ideological and practical issues in the way this technology has been implemented.
Library of Congress Music Division
As a James W. Pruett Fellow at the Library of Congress in the summer of 2011, I helped to reorganize materials in the Federal Theatre Project Collection and to perform initial processing of the Luther Henderson Papers.
Foreign Musicians in Paris
As part of a graduate seminar with Annegret Fauser in 2010, I contributed entries on the following individuals to the Foreign Musicians in Paris web resource:
- George Antheil
- Manuel de Falla
- Edmund Thornton Jenkins
- Vítězslava Kaprálová
- Bohuslav Martinů
- Walter Piston
- Cole Porter
- Olga Rudge
- Joaquín Turina
- José White Lafitte
Conference Paper: “Voilà le véritable Manuel: The ‘French Self’ in Manuel de Falla’s Trois mélodies.” American Musicological Society – Southeast Chapter, March 2011, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC.