Princeton reimagines Cole Porter’s immigration-focused ballet ‘for everyone’

Monday, Jun 19, 2017
by Jamie Saxon & Danielle Alio, Office of Communications

From Petipa to Puccini to Shakespeare, classical works of dance, opera and theater are often adapted to contemporary times. This spring at Princeton, a rarely performed pantomime-ballet — “Within the Quota,” with music by American composer Cole Porter — was reimagined to reflect the current political climate.

The original 1923 production responded to restrictive immigration quotas based on national origin that were enacted in 1921. Students of the Princeton University Ballet mounted the new production in Richardson Auditorium at Alexander Hall on Thursday, May 4. Porter’s music was performed live in a new arrangement prepared by Simon Morrison, professor of music, and the London-based Penguin Cafe, whose 10 members traveled to Princeton for the show.

When he composed the score for “Within the Quota,” Porter was an ambitious young songsmith. He was deeply troubled by the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which slashed immigration into the United States and established strict quotas based on the 1910 census to ensure an unchanging ethnic and religious population. Porter’s acerbic 16-minute pantomime-ballet, a series of duets in which an immigrant meets — and dances with — a series of American stereotypes from a New York heiress to a Hollywood starlet, tested the truth of America as a nation of immigrants.  Learn more about "Within the Quota."