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Dancing at the Crossroads with Raiz di Polon: Contemporary Dance, Seas of Sodadi and Corporeal Creolization

  • Author(s): Stranovsky, Sara
  • Advisor(s): Roberts, Allen F.
  • et al.
Abstract

Cape Verde is located at the geographical and cultural crossroads between West Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The archipelago's location physically isolates the islands, while a lack of financial opportunities encourages Cape Verdeans to emigrate to study or work. Cape Verde is a point of union for many nations around the world and many Cape Verdeans identify with being both European and African. The islands are divided culturally and linguistically while united as part of the Cape Verdean Kriolu mosaic. Opposition between isolation and union has developed divisions regarding which languages and traditions will be privileged as markers of national identity. These tensions create the context for the archipelago's first contemporary dance company, Raiz di Polon. I show how director Mano Preto has innovated a style that blurs boundaries using techniques rooted in the archipelago's folk practices and informed by intercultural collaboration. Through conducting participatory ethnographic research, accessing archives, collaborating on performances and documentating the company's work, I clarify both the strengths and the constraints of migratory flows, globalization, and the financial need for a global audience. Four strategies are employed to analyze Raiz di Polon: a grounding of key historical events that built a culture of adaptation and resistance; a discussion of Kriolu as a mode of ontological expression to which to compare movement; a dissection of the performance "Cidade Velha" that reimagines the nation through narratives and the development of a "kriolized" movement lexicon; and an examination of RDP as a local, regional, and global dance training center. Five case studies highlight how Raiz di Polon's impact can be evaluated through festival and musical concert contexts. This project makes the case that RDP succeeds in reclaiming muted postcolonial histories, uniting internal archipelagic divides, and promoting sustainability through the creation of a corporeal Kriolu lexicon. I show that RDP is emblematic to Cape Verdeans who seek to officialize Kriolu against contestations regarding the archipelago's identity as an African Nation. This dissertation shows the impact of dance, art, creolity and globalization on the autonomy of small nations and highlights dance as an important subject of diaspora and globalization studies.

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