Patricia Beaman works on the “Ballet des Porcelaines”
Patricia Beaman is not only a University Professor of Dance at Wesleyan University, she is also a longtime member of the New York Baroque Dance Company, with whom she has previously toured and appeared as a guest artist. Goddess/Siren/Monster, her Neo-Baroque triptych of the passacailles of Venus, Armide, and Scylla, toured Wesleyan University, NYC, Toronto, and Avignon, France. Her other Neo-Baroque works include The Narcoleptic Countess, Medea, and The Seven Deadly Sins. Professor Beaman has also performed, choreographed, and taught contemporary dance in the United States and Europe. She received a Mellon grant to reconstruct Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A and Chair/Pillow, which inspired her research in juxtaposing formulaic similarities between 18th century French theatrical dances and analytic Postmodern dance of the 1960s. She is the author of World Dance Cultures: from Ritual to Spectacle (Routledge Press, 2017).
Expanding on her portfolio of evocative and deeply moving work, last summer, with the support of a Wesleyan GISOS grant, Professor Beaman traveled to Naples, Italy. There she served as a baroque dance consultant on a reimagining of a 1740s work, Ballet des Porcelaines, which was performed at the Museo de Capodimonte. Ballet des Porcelaines, also known as The Teapot Prince, is a joint project undertaken by Meredith Martin, professor of art history at New York University, and Phil Chan, choreographer and co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, “a grassroots organization committed to eliminating yellowface and creating more positive representations of Asians in ballet.” The duo showcased their work with several museums and universities — among them The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum and Royal Park of Capodimonte, the Manufacture and National Museum of Sèvres, the Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust in Brighton, and Princeton University.
According to the press release for the piece, “The original Ballet des Porcelaines, written by the Comte de Caylus and staged around 1740 at a château outside of Paris, was based on an Orientalist fairy tale in the same literary milieu as Beauty and the Beast (1740). The story tells of an Asian sorcerer who lives on a ‘Blue Island’ and transforms anyone who dares to trespass into porcelain cups, vases, and other wares. When the sorcerer turns a captive prince into a teapot, a princess comes to rescue her lover by stealing the sorcerer’s wand and turning him into a pagod, an eighteenth-century version of a porcelain bobblehead.”
This, however, was no ordinary interpretation of the seminal Ballet des Porcelaines. The original ballet, which hadn’t been performed since 1741, “can be seen as an allegory for the aggressive European desire to know and steal the secrets of Chinese porcelain manufacture.” Subverting the original narrative, this new take on the ballet centered “the actions and desires of Asian protagonists. Nothing survived of the ballet’s original set design, costumes, or choreography, which provides an opportunity both to reimagine and update the performance for contemporary, multiracial audiences.” Importantly, “rather than its original aristocratic setting, the dancers will now perform in public museums and spaces surrounded by chinoiserie artworks whose pejorative depictions of Asians are confronted… Ballet des Porcelaines also [aspired to use] an 18th-century baroque mime vocabulary to comment on contemporary social events, such as Orientalism in the performing arts and the rise in anti-Asian xenophobia and hate crimes.” Congratulations to Professor Beaman for contributing to such an innovative project!
And the work continues! Professor Beaman is currently in the process of writing new chapters for the second edition of her textbook, World Dance Cultures: From Ritual to Spectacle (Routledge, 2018). We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for release information, as should you!