Event Title

A Camp Site of Desire: Paul Swan Dances Queerly

Location

Panel 14: Kearney 308

Start Date

27-10-2012 10:15 AM

End Date

27-10-2012 11:45 AM

Description

Paul Swan’s performances at the turn of the century through the 1960’s are an overlooked, early example of camp. His dancing in Warhol’s movie Camp might make this seem too obvious a claim, but Warhol’s campy fascination with Swan relies on anachronism-- the sinister humor of watching an 82 year-old man perform out-of-fashion dances. Yet, while billed as a “the most beautiful man in the world,” Swan toured Western Europe, South America and the United States extolling the virtues of Greek ideals via evening-length, one-man shows that packed vaudeville theatres, private salons, and high art commercial houses. His comings and goings frequently made newspaper headlines, and despite being derivative of other famous actors and dancers, Swan recycled material in a way that left his own mark. Using the analysis of gay historian George Chauncey and queer scholar Fabio Cleto, I argue that Paul Swan’s dancing reveals a deeper understanding of camp. Despite attempts to yoke camp with homosexual identities (Dyer and Babuscio), Swan’s performance of Delsartian principles, aesthetic dances, pantomimes, and poetry recitation is an example of popular camp that is queer without coalescing into an homosexual identity, a valuable lesson as we consider contemporary examples of camp.

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Oct 27th, 10:15 AM Oct 27th, 11:45 AM

A Camp Site of Desire: Paul Swan Dances Queerly

Panel 14: Kearney 308

Paul Swan’s performances at the turn of the century through the 1960’s are an overlooked, early example of camp. His dancing in Warhol’s movie Camp might make this seem too obvious a claim, but Warhol’s campy fascination with Swan relies on anachronism-- the sinister humor of watching an 82 year-old man perform out-of-fashion dances. Yet, while billed as a “the most beautiful man in the world,” Swan toured Western Europe, South America and the United States extolling the virtues of Greek ideals via evening-length, one-man shows that packed vaudeville theatres, private salons, and high art commercial houses. His comings and goings frequently made newspaper headlines, and despite being derivative of other famous actors and dancers, Swan recycled material in a way that left his own mark. Using the analysis of gay historian George Chauncey and queer scholar Fabio Cleto, I argue that Paul Swan’s dancing reveals a deeper understanding of camp. Despite attempts to yoke camp with homosexual identities (Dyer and Babuscio), Swan’s performance of Delsartian principles, aesthetic dances, pantomimes, and poetry recitation is an example of popular camp that is queer without coalescing into an homosexual identity, a valuable lesson as we consider contemporary examples of camp.