Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History & Political Thought, History Concentration (MA)

Committee Member

Olivas, Aaron A.

Committee Member

Weight, Donovan

Committee Member

Vergaray, Alfonso R.


This study examines the impact of American choreographers’ personal experiences in their works of dance, and the constructions of American national identity that surface as a result during the period of 1935-1965. Individual choreographers included in this study are Helen Tamiris, Edith Segal, Anna Sokolow, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and George Balanchine. Primary source material was gathered mainly from the choreographers’ published writings, interviews, and personal notations kept in archival collections at either the New York Public Library Jerome Robbins Dance Division or the Library of Congress Music Division. Other primary sources were gathered from archived governmental files such as FBI papers or official U.S. Department of State memoranda. Secondary sources were mainly used to provide background research and reference choreographer actions that were not central to my study. This study has found that choreographer intent and experiences on a personal level not only shaped the choreographies that were created, but shaped a national identity that defined aspects of “Americanness” that gave their audiences a relatable sense of identity. These identities thus transcended assumptions that dance was only a recreational pastime, and instead gave dance a greater role in the creation and shaping of Cold War American nationhood and a cultural space to critique that identity as well. Furthermore, the United States government harnessed the abilities of these choreographers and their dances to offer a sort of “cultural diplomacy” to the world as one facet of its efforts to containment of Soviet communism.