Finding a Political Voice
In response to the 1917 Russian Revolution, dancers began choreographing works that celebrated the new Marxist state led by Vladimir Lenin. Although many were politically naïve, these artists supported the Soviet Union’s communist “experiment.” In the same year, the United States entered World War I.
The lack of U.S. government action to address social and economic hardships during the early years of the Great Depression, and circulating communist propaganda that promised radical change and success for Americans, compelled a number of artists to join the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). Others became “fellow travelers,” a term used for those who believed in Marxist principles, but did not join the Party.
As early as 1934, seven years before the U.S. entered World War II, these fellow-traveling choreographers protested the rise of fascism and the Nazi Party in Germany. After the Soviet Union agreed to a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939, most dancers withdrew their support for communism, although they retained their beliefs in economic equality, the rights of workers, and racial justice.
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