Thanks for those links, RaHir. The development of the usage of "propaganda" is interesting, but I don't share the view of Jepson (no.2 in the list) who believes we should return to the original definition of the term ie expressing ideas. Word usage develops and moves on and in an age when the media has become increasingly important, we need a word to cover statements, be they verbal, written or visual that are designed to persuade people of circumstances that are not based on reality or a reasonable interpretation of reality and often appealing to emotional or Dionysian approaches as opposed to rational or Apollonian ideas.
Nazi propaganda was sophisticated and very successful. The detachment from reality of Nazi propaganda was particularly evident when Hitler was still proclaiming final victory when the Russian artillery could be heard on the edge of Berlin.
So how does this apply to the arts and dance? The Nazis used the arts as one aspect of propaganda and Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will" and similar works which glorify Nazi thinking can clearly be seen as propaganda. similarly, the wonderful film "Alexander Nevsky" I am assured by a historian bears little relation to reality or an interpretation of reality and can thus be called propaganda.
trina posed the same question about "The Green Table". Emotionally I do not consider it to be propaganda, because I agree with much of the thrust of the work. However, from a rational point of view, it is heavily influenced by the artist Käthe Kollwitz, who lost a son in the First world War and thus I believe it is sufficiently close to true experiences to avoid the lable "propaganda".
Similarly, Christopher Bruce's "Swansong" deals with the reality of individuals tortured and killed because of their beliefs. Thus although it is certainly political, I do not see that the label "propaganda" is appropriate.
In fact, I am struggling to think of dance propaganda pieces. I guess some of the Soviet era ballets can be seen that way. But "Spartacus", currently on show in London, is grounded in oppression of the slaves, so misses the term "propaganda" for me.
When Rudolf Laban was running dance for the Nazis he made a work for the opening of the culture festival associated with the 1936 Berlin Olympics (not the Olympics themselves, that was Mary wigman and others). Laban's huge movement choir piece was meant to reflect Nazi philosophy, but Hitler and Goebbels, Laban's boss, were unimpressed and pulled the opening event after a dress rehearsal. So, here we have an important artist trying to make a propaganda piece and failing.
Propaganda as we use the term today does imply distortion or lying. Is it more difficult to lie convincingly with dance than other art forms?
<small>[ 30 July 2004, 08:09 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>