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Agnes de MilleTelling Stories in Broadway Dance$
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Kara Anne Gardner

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199733682

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199733682.001.0001

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Fitting the “Civil War Ballet” into Bloomer Girl

Fitting the “Civil War Ballet” into Bloomer Girl

(p.69) 4 Fitting the “Civil War Ballet” into Bloomer Girl
Agnes de Mille

Kara Anne Gardner

Oxford University Press

Bloomer Girl (lyricist Yip Harburg, composer Harold Arlen) provides another case study of the way de Mille incorporated dance into the fabric of her Broadway musicals. The show premiered in 1944, when de Mille’s husband, Walter Prude, had just been sent to England to fight in World War II. De Mille’s letters reveal a profound need to produce meaningful work with a tragic component. She felt conflicted at being assigned the creation of humorous dances for a lighthearted depiction of star-crossed romance between a rebellious suffrage activist and a soldier in the Confederate army. She found a way to insert a previously composed ballet about a widow who loses her husband in the Civil War, a choice that elevated the show as a whole and moved audiences.

Keywords:   World War II, Civil War, Bloomer Girl, Celeste Holm, Joan McCracken, Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Dolly Bloomer, women’s suffrage

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