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The unlikely margin. Ballet in early 20th century Greece as an instance of dissidence in dance modernity

Project leader:
Anna Leon (IKW)

Project team:
Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein (co-applicant)

3 years
(extended until 31.12.2026)

Funded by:
FWF – Austrian Science Fund | Hertha Firnberg (T1336)

FWF | Hertha-Firnberg Fellow
Anna Leon, Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Duration: 1.1.2022 – 31.12.2026

‘Margin’ points to the periphery, to the outsider, to margin-alisation; but both the English word and the French marge layer this meaning with one that posits a space of possibility. The unlikely margin explores the performative and choreographic practices of ballet in early 20th century Greece as an unexpected territory of dissidence within (dance) modernity: both a non-dominant genre and one nesting subversive potential by resisting interconnected prevailing narratives of national identity, gender and ‘high’ culture.

In opposition to modernist narratives that a-politicise dance, this project develops an intersectional understanding of the disruptions that early 20th century Greek ballet brought to normative national and gender narratives, placing these in a framework marked by class difference and its manifestation in constructions of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture.

While Greek dance history is severely under-represented in European dance historiography, this project contributes to countering dance-historical Eurocentrism within Europe itself and acknowledges the inputs, in European dance history, of “European Others” (Fatima El-Tayeb). Pointing to the necessity that historiography integrate ‘peripheries’ such as Greece in the complexity of the transnational, decentralised exchanges that constituted the dance landscape of early 20th century modernity, The unlikely margin contributes to a critical diversification of perspectives on – European but also Mediterranean – dance modernity. In doing so, it underlines plurality and multiplicity – both within and beyond dominant cultural centres of Western/Europe – in a movement of expansion of the historiographic canon but also of structural transformation of the narratives that construct it.

To disseminate the research both in Vienna and in Greece, the project will generate a diversity of outputs, from academic formats to practice-oriented workshops and collaborations with artists, placing historical ‘margins’ in dialogue with the present.