To read Stanley Burnshaw’s entire essay in the December 1935 New Masses, click here.

Stanley Burnshaw was one of two writers (the other was Owen Burke) who reported on modern dance for New Masses. Their reviews offered insights that paralleled the way visual art was presented throughout the journal’s history. In this 1935 essay, Burnshaw highlighted Martha Graham’s Imperial Gesture for its use of a singular figure to convey ideas of imperialist arrogance. He presented Graham’s choreography as an exploration of Marxist ideas of identity construction in imperialist society. Through the lens of this overarching ideology, Graham’s sequence of movements addressed imperialist gluttony, a resulting upheaval for all things weaker, followed by imperialism’s inevitable collapse. Graham, along with other prominent figures in the dance world, assimilated leftist social concerns into their medium through a creative process similar to that of other politically engaged art forms. Burnshaw encouraged audiences to embrace revolutionary dance performances which, for him, visually demonstrated radical sentiment through clean, forceful movements.

Colin Buist