Performing the Greek Crisis

Navigating National Identity in the Age of Austerity

Subjects: Dance, History, European History
Paperback : 9780472056750, 252 pages, 23 figures, 1 table, 6 x 9, May 2024
Hardcover : 9780472076758, 252 pages, 23 figures, 1 table, 6 x 9, May 2024
Open Access : 9780472904433, 252 pages, 23 figures, 1 table, 6 x 9, May 2024
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Examining how changes in dance amid the Greek financial crisis altered perceptions and discourses of Greece’s culture and national identity

Table of contents


Note on Transliteration and Translation
Chapter 1 Contested Bodies: Dance and Greek Nation Building
Chapter 2 Fragments of a Precarious Landscape: The Crisis from Within
Chapter 3 Choreographing the Periphery: Displacement and the “Weird”
Chapter 4 The Rise of Regional Festivals
Chapter 5 Choreographies of the European Refugee Crisis


Performing the Greek Crisis explores the impact of the Greek financial crisis (2009–19) on the performing arts sector in Greece, and especially on contemporary concert dance. When Greece became the first European Union member to be threatened with default, the resulting budget cuts pushed dance to develop in unprecedented directions. The book examines the repercussions that the crisis had on artists’ daily lives and experiences, weaving the personal with the political to humanize a phenomenon that, to date, had been examined chiefly through economic and statistical lenses. Informed by the author’s experience of growing up in Greece and including interviews and rich descriptions of performances,  the book offers a glimpse into a pivotal moment in Greek history. 

In Greece, dance (and, by extension, the body) has historically held a central role in the process of national identity construction. When the crisis broke out, artists had to navigate through a precariously fluctuating landscape, with their bodies as their only stable referent. By centering the analysis of the Greek crisis on the dancing bodies, Performing the Greek Crisis is able to examine the various ways that artists reconceptualized their history and reframed ideas of national belonging, race, citizenship, and immigration.

Natalie Zervou is Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“A very interesting, well-told, comprehensive, critical, and complex analysis of the development of contemporary dance in Greece in recent years. It is also timely, addressing a lack and a need in dance studies.”
—Einav Katan-Schmid, Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts, Tel Aviv

- Einav Katan-Schmid

“A delight to read and indeed a timely book. The beginning focus on the ‘body in crisis’ is a powerful entry point into a discussion of contemporary Greek dance, a topic that warrants more exposure within an international context.”
—Ann Cooper Albright, author of How to Land: Finding Ground in an Unstable World

- Ann Cooper Albright

“In this eloquent and carefully researched study, Zervou delves into the power of somatic expression to highlight communication and activism beyond performance. Like Greek dance itself, the author pushes the boundaries of an entrenched nationalism under fire. This book fills a gap and invites us to look at the ‘age of austerity’ with different eyes and emotions.”
—Gonda Van Steen, Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature, King’s College London

- Gonda Van Steen

Interview: Natalie Zervou on the Ideas on Fire Podcast | June 24, 2024