Department of English Professor Eva Shan Chou Awarded National Science Foundation Research Experience for UndergraduatesProject to focus on developing a historical account of ballet in China from its beginnings in 1954 to today
May 24, 2018
Department of English professor and chair Eva Shan Chou, PhD, of Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, has been awarded a Resident Fellowship to New York University’s Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA).
Dr. Chou is among 27 artists and scholars who will serve as CBA Fellows during the 2018-19 academic year. The group represents the Center’s largest cohort, featuring a range of disciplines including writers, choreographers, filmmakers, dancers, a lighting designer, and scholars.
“I am excited to be joining a community that will includes principal dancers from the New York City Ballet among those working on choreography,” Dr. Chou said. “To see the artists up close, to watch the unfolding of experimentation, is very important for my continued thinking as a critic.”
According to the Center, it is the “first international institute devoted to the creative and academic study of ballet.” Entering its fifth year, the CBA Fellowship Program invites scholars and artists from the field of ballet and its related arts and sciences to work at the Center on their own scholarly and artistic projects.
Ballet in China: A History
As a Resident Fellow, Dr. Chou will be developing a historical account of ballet in China from its beginnings in 1954 to its present strikingly accomplished position in the international ballet world.
Like the country’s history, the path of ballet in China contained intense about-turns, multiple beginnings, and a recent strong arrival on the international scene. This history approaches the development of ballet in China as a function of fluctuating relations between an art form and cultural authorities. It also pays special attention to the role that ballet plays in the creation and shaping of national identity.
Along with this book project, Dr. Chou will continue writing about dance performances for Ballet Review (New York).
“Dance studies is growing rapidly in many stimulating directions,” she said, “and the range and depth of the 2018-19 Fellows and their projects show this. Dance studies is clearly establishing itself as a field within cultural studies in addition to its first home of performance studies.”
Presenting Ballet as an Art Form
A history of ballet in China is Dr. Chou’s primary goal during her fellowship, but she is already thinking about other forms of dissemination that can stem from this core book.
“Ballet is a multi-media art form,” she said. “Even ballet that has no record in moving images can be – needs to be – excitingly presented outside the pages of a book. I want to infect others with the enthusiasm that I feel.”
A Cultural Historian
Dr. Chou’s work has focused on many different forms of art, moving from classical poetry to modern fiction, and now ballet. As a cultural historian, Dr. Chou has found her status as a bilingual outsider to be beneficial in her research on each of her projects. Whether poetry from twelve hundred years ago, or literature from China’s modern beginnings a century ago, or ballet in the past seven decades, the ability of art to cross borders and languages has always inspired her to undertake research.
“I am a cultural historian who’s always been interested in works of art both as creative works and in their relation to their use in China’s sense of identity,” she said. “What has stayed constant is my interest in the historical and political frames that ascribe value to the art.”
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