Katherine Mansfield & Dance

Paper by Jennifer Shennan

Below is a link to a paper I gave on 8 July 2023 as part of a symposium organised under the auspices of the Stout Research Centre and held at Victoria University of Wellington’s Pipitea campus. The symposium, Katherine Mansfield: Last Things & Legacies, took place to mark the centenary of the death of Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand’s most celebrated short story writer.

My paper was inspired by Mansfield’s varied interest in dance as it appeared in her writing and life, in particular by a ballet focusing on that interest: Bliss choreographed by Patricia Rianne and first staged in 1986. The work of choreographers Margaret Barr and Loughlan Prior, who were also inspired by Mansfield’s interests, is also mentioned.

Kirby Selchow as Katherine Mansfield in Loughlan Prior’s Woman of Words. Royal New Zealand Ballet, 2023. Photo: © Celia Walmsley

Here is the paper

Jennifer Shennan, 12 July 2023

Featured image: (left) Anneliese Gilberd as Pearl and (right) Kerry-Anne Gilberd as Bertha in Patricia Rianne’s Bliss, Royal New Zealand Ballet, 1986. Photographer not identified

7 thoughts on “Katherine Mansfield & Dance

  1. Thanks Jennifer for a beautifully researched paper. I am curious, however, about Kathleen who is mentioned in the paragraph about music experiences: ‘The music experiences with piano and cello in Kathleen’s younger years…’. Not being all that knowledgeable about Katherine Mansfield’s background I am wondering who Kathleen was. Can you explain please?

  2. yes sure … KM was born Kathleen Mary Beauchamp 1888
    She used various pen names for the publication of early stories — but adopted the name Katherine Mansfield when she returned to live in England, 1909, and began writing and publishing in earnest. This is a simple summary of the nickname-penname-shape-shifting that continued throughout her life.
    … more at this link.
    Mansfield, Katherine – Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
    Te Ara https://teara.govt.nz › biographies › mansfield-katherine

  3. The link seems OK.I just tried it.

    When you click on the link above, it takes you to the home page of the encyclopaedia. From there you open up the biographies tab then scroll down to M. From there scroll down the list of M names to Mansfield.

  4. A beautiful essay on the interplay between Katherine Mansfield’s experiences of dance and music and the stories in which these experiences are revisited and reimagined. You also conjure another time – the literary world in which Mansfield lived and wrote, her personal journey about to end, the moments of bliss, the sadness of the age whose shadows impinged on her own struggles with TB and loss.

  5. Thank you Michael. Your thoughts are appreciated. It’s not often one gets the chance to talk about Dance — which is a pity since there’s much could be said.
    I am grateful to the KM Symposium people for that opportunity, and to Michelle for posting the paper on her Review website.

    Yes, Mansfield was alive to the times, and to the many places she travelled in search of improvements to her health — but writing always came first. It heartens me that a few choreographers have paid attention to her work.

  6. I have just read your KM paper. What a beautiful and fascinating work, I learned much about KM that I had no idea about (she will be ‘discovered’ in her different guises for centuries)… I was very pleased to read it.

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