Border Crossings: Exile and American Modern Dance 1900-1955

Event Date: 

Thursday, January 25, 2024 - 12:00am to Sunday, May 5, 2024 - 12:00am

Opening Reception:
Thursday, January 25
5:30 – 7:30 PM

Border Crossings: Exile and American Modern Dance, 1900–1955 celebrates the heroism of immigrant and BIPOC artists and challenges previous histories to consider how war, exile, inequality, and injustice shaped 20th century performance art. A manifesto of the unsung, Border Crossings demonstrates how exiled and marginalized artists catalyzed modern dance, giving voice to crucial issues of geopolitical circumstance and structural racism. Crossing borders—physical, geographic, racial, artistic, spiritual—either by choice or by force, became an historical circumstance out of people’s control. These crossings are woven into the grammar of “the modern” in dance; they are its DNA. 

Border Crossings highlights the myriad ways in which dance is documented and showcases rare films, photographs, costumes, designs, and archival objects to tell both biographical and generational stories. The exhibition curators ask the viewer to consider two fundamental questions: What is a choreography of social justice? How is dance a weapon for social change? 

The exhibition includes works by artists from many communities: Tom Two Arrows, Aida Overton Walker, José Limón, Carmen Amaya, La Argentina, Si-Lan Chen, Katherine Dunham, Edna Guy, Michio Ito, Yeichi Nimura, Pearl Primus, Uday Shankar, Anna Sokolow, and lesser- known companies such as the New Dance Group (1932), the Wisconsin Dance Group (1947) and the First Negro Classical Ballet (1949). Placing the present in conversation with the past, the exhibition includes new interviews with contemporary choreographers, Michelle Manzanales, Kyle Abraham, Eiko Otake, Kiri Avelar, Dianne McIntyre, Preeti Vasudevan, Pam Tanowitz, Richard Move, Muna Tseng, Rachna Nivas, and Pam Tanowitz who reflect on exile and border crossings within their work.

Border Crossings: Exile and American Modern Dance, 1900 – 1955 is organized by the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at UC Santa Barbara with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Originally conceived by Professor Ninotchka Bennahum (UCSB) and Professor Emeritus Bruce Robertson (UCSB), the AD&A Museum presentation is curated by Professor Ninotchka Bennahum (UCSB) with Professor Rena Heinrich (USC).

Border Crossings is made possible thanks to generous support from Jody and John Arnhold ’75 | Arnhold Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Department of Theater and Dance.

Purchase a copy of the Border Crossings exhibition catalog here

Image: Mary Hinkson performing “If There Isn’t There Ought To Be” from After the Rain (1945) on February 4, 1949, Photographer unknown, University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, Madison, WI.