A Theatrical Performance of Vernon Lee’s The Ballet of the Nations


  • Sally Blackburn-Daniels The Open University




Vernon Lee’s short narrative piece The Ballet of the Nations (1915) was written after the sudden and shocking collapse of a long period of peace that had prevailed in Europe for forty-four years. In the text, Lee studies the developing war not as it is fought on the battlefields, but as it penetrates, occupies and dominates the civilian mind. How, she asks, does the slaughter become filled with idealism? How does a war that is so obviously catastrophic engage the best in people, and reduce it to partisan savagery? A site-specific and bilingual adaptation of The Ballet of the Nations was performed at the Villa il Palmerino – Lee’s home for forty years – in May 2019. The international cast was directed by Greek actor and director Angeliki Papoulia (The Lobster, The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea), and by dancer and choreographer Federica Parretti. My paper will consider the genesis of this project, the relationship to its original text, and the political implications of its performance.

Keywords: site-specific; promenade performance; pacifism; dance and ritual; political performance






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