Her talk focuses on the imagery of chorality (i.e. choruses and chorus dancing) on archaic and classical Greek vases. Specifically, she discusses the interaction between the dolphins, choruses, and hoplites. Through these images, she illustrates the relationship between the development of the chorus and chorus rituals and the evolution of Greek political institutions.
Generally, classicists and historians consider theater to be a specifically and uniquely Athenian institution. However, evidence highlighted at this conference demonstrates that theater, although it might have started in Athens, began to spread out through magna Graeca. Kowalzig expands the importance of theater and specifically chorality as part of a Hellenic rather than simply an Athenian identity.
Barbara explains that the social transformation in the 7th and 6th century coincided with a transformation and upsurge in the importance of chorality. Consequently, chorality becomes a part of the Hellenic identity and a connective medium through the expanse of the Greek world. Choral dancing existed throughout Indoeuropean and other cultures in the Mediteranean including in Mycenean, Cypriot, Hittite, Egyptian civilizations, as well as other eastern cultures. She explains that the Greeks considered there to be something unique about choruses, which is probably why they figure so heavily into treatises of the political imaginary such as Plato's Laws.
In her talk, Kowalzig employs a number of different surviving cultural instances to demonstrate the importance of chorality and its ties to politics and culture. The first image is the red figure pyskter below from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Barbara explains that this image comes at the end of a long process of the development of images, language, and chorality.
|This picture comes from The Met's website|
Many other vases show the morphing of people and sailors into dolphins or have patterns of humans with equivalent patterns of dolphins on opposite sides of the vase. This evokes chorality and the idea of dithyramb. In the picture above, as in many of the other vases, the dolphin-riders or dolphin-men are armed, using imagery to invoke civic duty and the hoplite phalanx. This is because, as Barbara Kowalzig argues, the quintessential citizen not only in Athens but in Greece, includes both the civic duty of war and that of dancing and Dionysian celebration. Choruses were made up, so far as can be discerned, of ephebes, men right on the brink of military age. Plato's Laws effectively demonstrates this though the emphasis laid on the dual nature of education: the physical military training and the musical chorus training.