Kayci Olson Harris

Position title: Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2020-2021)

History, UW-Madison

Portrait of a smiling woman wearing a black dress and green glasses, with a vintage Chinese screen in the background.

Pas de Deux: Cold War Ballet Exchanges and Franco-Soviet Cultural Interaction, 1953-1975

My dissertation examines Franco-Soviet ballet company exchanges from 1953 to 1975. Recent contributions to Cold War and dance scholarship have demonstrated how governments instrumentalized ballet tours for cultural diplomacy. Expanding upon this work by taking a more grassroots approach, my research found that Franco-Soviet ballet tours revealed divergent understandings of social hierarchy, aesthetics, gender, and consumer culture. In short, dance tours provide a window onto how French and Soviet people engaged with Cold War politics and imagined cultural differences across the East/West divide. Incorporating French and Soviet sources, my dissertation argues that postwar Franco-Soviet dance exchanges shaped policy decisions within both countries’ national theater houses and transformed popular debates about the relationship between art, egalitarianism, gender, and national identity.

Kayci Olson Harris is a cultural historian of twentieth-century France and the Soviet Union. As a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she is currently writing a dissertation about ballet tours and Cold War cultural diplomacy between France and the Soviet Union. In 2012 she graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in French and History, and in 2013 graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Social Sciences. Since beginning her doctoral program at UW-Madison, her research has been supported by IRH, the Fulbright Program, the George L. Mosse Program, the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia, and the Society for French Historical Studies.