DANCING FOR SUFFRAGE:

RECONSTRUCTING FLORENCE FLEMING NOYES'S DANCE OF FREEDOM

In February 1914, Noyes performed her Dance of Freedom for Anna Howard Shaw’s birthday party at the Biltmore Hotel in New York. Noyes wraps herself in a large length of chiffon and struggles against the fabric to free herself, as a metaphor for women’s fight for equity and enfranchisement. The performance was filmed as part of the Pathé Weekly newsreel, and the archival film footage is housed by the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Meg Brooker's project DANCING FOR SUFFRAGE: RECONSTRUCTING FLORENCE FLEMING NOYES'S DANCE OF FREEDOM offers dance educators an opportunity to explore a historic choreography, with a social activist theme, and to initiate dialogue with students about voting rights and embodied experiences of oppression. This dance opens conversations about racism in the women's suffrage movement and creates a space for dancers to explore their own, contemporary movement responses to the themes in the dance. In creating this reconstruction, Meg draws on her background as a certified teacher of Noyes Rhythm, with nearly two decades of kinesthetic research into early modern dance practices. This project and the accompanying materials are designed to be adaptable for K-12 and university dance populations.

This research has been supported by grants from the Faculty Research and Creative Activity Committee of Middle Tennessee State University, and has also been made possible by a National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance grant in support of the Noyes School of Rhythm Archives.

SUPPLIES:

  • Long length of fabric. Chiffon is recommended (sheer so dancers can see through it), but any lightweight fabric can work.

  • Music can be any arrangement of "America," also known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee." There are many versions of this anthem, including several with social justice themes. Pick four verses, or use instrumental accompaniment with four repeats.

  • Suggestion: Look at the feminist version from 1795 and also the abolitionist versions from 1839 & 1843 (see RESOURCES list).  

HISTORICAL CONTEXT QUESTIONS:

  • What is universal suffrage? Who has access to the vote and who decides who has access? How are voting rights protected?

  • What does the 19th amendment actually state?

  • What choices did the National American Woman Suffrage Association leaders make in organizing the 1913 parade in Washington, DC? What are the consequences of those choices?

  • What can dance teach us about complex historical events? What do we learn from exploring the works of historic activist performers? What do we experience embodying these historic works? How does our embodied experience enable us to analyze and critique these works? 

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LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

  • Physically embody a historic dance choreography with a social justice theme.

  • Create original movement vocabulary through the kinesthetic exploration of freedom and oppression.

  • Explore how dance cultivates empathy and develops social awareness. 

  • Develop critical perspective on the women's suffrage movement in the United States.

CREATIVE PROCESS QUESTIONS:

  • Explore “power,” “choice,” and “freedom” in movement. What do each of these ideas feel like? What gesture or movement vocabulary do you discover?

  • What is the opposite of “freedom” in movement? Bound? Silenced? How does that feel? What gesture or movement vocabulary do you discover?

  • How do different bodies read/express differently in performance? Why is diverse representation in performance essential?

DANCE OF FREEDOM FEEDBACK FORM &

PROJECT SHARING

We would love to hear about your students' experiences of these materials. Please fill out this form to share your thoughts and feedback on this educational resource, including any images or video you have of your process exploring these materials with your students. We would love to see any dances or new choreographies you create.

DANCE OF FREEDOM FEEDBACK FORM

These materials are being shared for educational use only.

Meg Brooker retains copyright of the Dance of Freedom reconstruction, including staging choices, choreography of the fabric, identification of music, and coaching based on Noyes Rhythm techniques and embodied research into early modern dance practices. Professional dancers and companies or dance programs interested in producing this work for public performance can reach out to Meg Brooker directly via email for permissions and coaching at meg@duncandancesouth.org or can contact Meg through the Noyes School of Rhythm Foundation at info@noyesrhythm.org. 

© 2020 by MEG BROOKER