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ZOOM RoundTABle on

Fri. 3 FEBruary 2023, 4pm EST / 9pM GMT

The Ballet des Porcelaines, a ballet pantomime, was first presented in 1739 by a group of French aristocrats at a chateau near Paris. It tells the story of a prince searching for his lover on a faraway island ruled by a magician, who has transformed the inhabitants into porcelain. The prince and princess break the spell, bringing the dancers back to life. On the one hand, a standard Orientalist fairy tale, the ballet is also an allegory for the intense European desire to know and possess the secrets of making porcelain.


Meredith Martin, art history professor at New York University, and Phil Chan, choreographer and activist, have together revived the Ballet des Porcelaines, a Baroque ballet pantomime of 1739. With nothing surviving of its set design, costumes, or choreography, Phil and Meredith have updated the work for a contemporary and multicultural audience.


Their production - which has toured Europe and North America - flips the script: now Asian protagonists are placed front and centre. By reimagining this chinoiserie rococo production, this production gets at the heart of the mystery, exoticism, and complex cultural work that is embedded in the production of porcelain.  

This roundtable will consider the challenges of bringing eighteenth-century stage works to today's audiences, especially when such works are deeply immersed in, and express, the ideology of white European supremacy. What are the rewards and implications of this reimagining of the Ballet des Porcelaines? And what can we learn from it?



Joining us will be:

  • Meredith Martin,  Associate Professor of Art History, NYU & the Institute of Fine Arts

  • Chi-Ming Yang,  Professor of English, UPenn

  • Olivia Sabee,  Associate Professor of Dance, Swarthmore College

  • David TaylorAssociate Professor of English, University of Oxford


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