The Performing Arts section brings together articles examining the
transatlantic exchange of objects, practices, and representations in the
world of the stage. Traced here are the comings and goings and the
multiple pathways of these artistic exchanges in their different facets.
These exchanges can involve a work, a text, an artist, but also a
practice, a movement, or a tendency; they can also be related to
concepts, imagination and symbolic references that are engaged by all
those (people and institutions) that participate in defining the various
Considered here are artistic disciplines related to "staging" and
"representation": theatre, of course, but also dance, street art and
performance, happenings or opera, and other more hybrid forms, for
example theatre-dance, operetta and urban interventions. All stage-scene
forms are considered, regardless of traditional distinctions
(professional vs. amateur practice; "legitimate" vs. "marginal", etc.).
Forms on the boundary of these categories, like those of the circo
criollo, dinner theatre or community theatre will also be treated under
this section, to show the richness of transatlantic exchanges in the
performing arts, and to rebalance the participation of various spaces
in this cultural brew.
European performing arts have had an irrefutable centrality in the
history of Western theatre, so much so that the exchanges and influences
among the various countries have often been analyzed from a
unidirectional perspective, from Europe toward the Americas—and, in
smaller measure, toward Africa. For a long time, Western theatre was
conceived as a fundamentally European story. This section intends to
question that traditional conception of exchange by insisting on a
growing number of influences and multiple currents (that can also
function from Latin America and Africa toward Europe and the United
States). In effect, several cities in the Atlantic world were entwined
when, at the end of the 19th century Christophe Charle's "society of
spectacle" took up the mantle from Jean-Claude Yon's "dramatocratie."
Relations are woven, for example, between the European theatre capitals
(Paris, Berlin, London, Vienna) and the nascent North American cultural
metropolis of New York. First dominated by the Parisian repertoire, then
by translations of dramatic works or the theatrical chronicles following
the new releases on the old continent, show tours fed the cultural
conduits between the United States and Europe. Feydeau, for example, was
celebrated in London and New York, as Violaine Heyraud shows us. Actor
tours were particularly notable; Sarah Bernhardt's visits in Brazil allow
us to observe transformations in the world of Brazilian theatre.
The birth of the entertainment industry brings about the emergence of
great entrepreneurs who are active on both sides of the Atlantic, such
as the renowned Phineas Barnum and the no less-important Imre Kiralfi.
Moreover, the creation of large theatre halls, between the end of the
19th and the beginning of the 20th century, in Latin American
capitals like Rio de Janeiro, Santiago (Chile) and Buenos Aires,
enlarges the circuit of the great international tours, and provides
refuge to European artists during the two world wars.
In the 20th century, flow and movement intensify after various waves
of migration which are themselves consequences of, among other things,
wars and political crises. The performing arts, from one side of the
Atlantic to the other, are not indifferent to these demographic
currents. The most mainstream tendencies in theatre (of which New York's
Broadway is one of the more emblematic crystallizations) as well as
avant-garde movements find their distinctiveness in the cultural mixing
that comes out of these migrations.
In American-style musical comedies, the so-called "people's opera,"
one can observe re-appropriations of European opera. The origin of the
South American independent theatre movement is fostered from the
people's theatre of Romain Rolland and the antifascist struggles of
exiled anarchists. Theatrical European avant-gardes are privileged
points of reference for American experimental theatre during the 1960s,
notably in the Off-Broadway theatre circuit, which later inspires
several stage experiments in Europe as well as in Latin America, etc.
The tours in Europe and Latin America of the troupe The Living Theater
are one example.
Years later, Latin American exiles during the military dictatorships
reverse the voyage, strongly influencing the experiments of political
theatre as well as theatrical studies in their countries of refuge. So
it is with the wide dissemination of the "theatre of the oppressed" of
Augusto Boal in Europe; the integration of Latin-American artists in
prestigious theatre companies like the Theâtre du Soleil of Ariane
Mnouchkine in France or the La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in New
York; or the configuration of research networks on Latin American
Theatre in the departments of Spanish in North American universities.
Other performance disciplines like dance, puppetry, circus and clown
techniques, or, more recently, performance art, renew their aesthetic
codes and methods of creation through cultural exchanges in several
Therefore, multiple modalities of circulation are considered under this
thematic section, whether they be material or intangible. One object can "play"
within the geographical space concerned, producing perennial or
temporary effects in spaces of refuge. This is the case, for example, of
the tour of a play, the travels of an artist, the translation of plays
or of theoretical texts, or the diffusion across the Atlantic of a style
or a technique. Circulation can also operate through re-appropriations
of a practice, of an idea, or of a tendency in various sociocultural
spaces and contexts. This is quite obviously done through specific
cultural brokers (people, associations, institutions, etc.), but it is
equally made possible by specific situations in the countries of
reception (for example, targeted cultural policies, social activism, the
influence of censorship or repression, the effect of economic crises or
times of economic growth, etc.), with each of these factors (which can
also interact with one another) producing unique results. Such is the
case, among others, of Latin American re-appropriations of popular
theatre, street theatre in capital cities, the teaching of certain
techniques or the diffusion of acting theories, or re-readings and
diverse uses of classical theatre according to context. These are the
many modalities and complexities of artistic circulation that this
section endeavors to cover.