Martha Graham’s Cold War: The Dance of American Diplomacy, a Lecture by Dr. Victoria Phillips

Cover image of Martha Graham's Cold War book.
January 20, 2020

St. Johnsbury Academy is pleased to welcome acclaimed author, Dr. Victoria Phillips, to campus on Monday, January 27, for a lecture on her latest book, Martha Graham’s Cold War: The Dance of American Diplomacy. Sponsors for the event are the Ned & Sarah Handy Fund for Dance in collaboration with Catamount Arts, The Athenaeum, and Kingdom County Productions.


Dr. Victoria Phillips is a professor of history at Columbia University, director of the Cold War Archival Research Project (CWAR), and Visiting Fellow in the Department of International History at the London School of Economics. She has also provided programs at major universities across the country, including West Point. She specializes in cold war history and cultural diplomacy.


Martha Graham’s Cold War: The Dance of American Diplomacy explores the international political life of Martha Graham to promote the United States in over thirty nations, for every presidential administration from Franklin D. Roosevelt through George H.W. Bush. Graham famously denied that her work was political. Yet, documents, oral histories, and even the dances themselves show a deep promotion of freedom and the constitutional principles of the United States. Graham’s leadership, choreographic works, and dynamism as a performer, both on and off-stage, made her an invaluable Cold War cultural export. As one star dancer from the early Cold War said to Victoria, “Never forget: Martha was a genius.”


The lecture by Dr. Phillips demonstrates St. Johnsbury Academy’s dedication to exploring the arts in areas of interest that are not typically publicized or considered. SJA aims to provide expert teaching with an emphasis on integrating cross-disciplinary studies. Dr. Phillips brings these insights in her capacity as a historian and dance scholar. Martha Graham’s legacy embraces areas of interest besides dance, including her role as “ambassador” during the height of Cold War East/West competition and as part of the U.S. State Department’s effort to rehabilitate the American image after the loss of Vietnam. Ms. Graham’s role as “ambassador” is one few are aware of, and yet it has affected the American profile worldwide. Dr. Phillips provides a rare glimpse into the workings of the State Department and how it made use of Ms. Graham’s personality, repertory, philosophy, fluency, and stature as an American icon.


The event will take place at 7:00 P.M. on Monday, January 27, 2020, in the Stuart Black Box Theater, in the Morse Center for the Arts on the SJA campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.


> Download the event poster.

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