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Radical Dancers: The Rise of Pantomime and the End of Drama in Antiquity

February 26, 2018 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Mali Skotheim standing outside wearing glasses and a grey shirt

Monday Seminar:

Mali Skotheim

Solmen Fellow (2017-2018)

Classics, Princeton University


Pantomime, first attested under Augustus, transformed the traditionally staged and acted drama that audiences were familiar with into an exciting new form, a solo, masked, mimetic dance. My project considers the cultural and intellectual impact of this controversial art form, from its origins in Rome in the 1st century BC to its afterlife in 18th century Europe. Pantomime affected not just how people conceived of dance, but the potential for non-verbal communication of narrative and emotion. Pantomime also outlasted spoken drama by several hundred years, forming a bridge between ancient performance traditions and Late Antiquity. In the Enlightenment, ballet choreographers re-discovered ancient pantomime through the text of Lucian’s On the Dance, and formed a new connection between ballet and pantomime as a way of elevating the status of the dance by linking it to an ancient antecedent. Throughout these debates about pantomime, in ancient and modern contexts, run questions about the relationship between tradition and innovation, gesture and narrative, silence and memory, and performance and emotion.


Mali Skotheim received her Ph.D. in Classics from Princeton University in 2016, and her BA in Latin from Swarthmore College in 2005. During 2015-16, she was a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, where she completed her dissertation, The Greek Dramatic Festivals under the Roman Empire. Her work has been generously supported by fellowships at the Center for Epigraphical and Paleographical Studies at The Ohio State University, the Warburg Institute in London, the Center for Ancient History and Epigraphy at the German Archaeological Institute in Munich, and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.


February 26, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States