• Eva Palmer-Sikelianos Dances Aeschylus: The Politics of Historical Reenactment when Staging the Rites of the Past

    Samuel Dorf (see profile)
    Dance, History, Greeks--Social life and customs, Civilization, Modern
    Item Type:
    Eva Palmer Sikelianos, Dance history, Modern Greek culture
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    Eva Palmer-Sikelianos (1874–1952), along with her husband, the poet Angehlos Sikelianos, founded the first modern Delphic Festival in 1927 in an effort to revive the Ancient Greek rites that took place on that spot over 2,500 years before. She invited “overseers of culture” from around the globe to convene in the holy city of Delphi for a reenactment of the performance of Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus in the ancient amphitheater, an Olympic-styled athletic contest, and an exhibition of Greek crafts. This paper explores Palmer-Sikelianos’s choreography, music and dramaturgy for her reconstructed Prometheus Bound in light of her own research on ancient Greek culture and our modern theories of historical reenactment. Based on silent film records of Palmer-Sikelianos’s 1930 festival, her own autobiography, her collaborations with Natalie Barney on Greek-themed theatricals in the early 1900s, and comparisons to the movement vocabulary and other contemporary stagings of ancient Greek festivals and sport, I demonstrate how Palmer- Sikelianos blended the oldest sources on ancient Greek ritual music and dance that she could find with what she saw as an authentic “spirit” of Greek culture as observed in modern Greek society. Compared to the Ballets Russes’s reenactment of ancient Greece, Palmer-Sikelianos’s project to reenact “authentic” Greek theater and choreography illustrates that theories of theatrical historical reconstruction in the early twentieth century were heavily influenced by contemporary theatrical, political, and social events. And like the Fokine and Nijinsky models, Palmer-Sikelianos’s staging redefines ancient dance through the prisms of ancient sources and modern aesthetics.
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    6 years ago
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