What Dances Were Popular In The 1920s – You can probably close your eyes and imagine the great dance parties described and written about by F. Scott Fitzgerald: dresses with beads and fringes, dancing, theatre.
Gone are the Victorian waltzes and slow walks. Charleston, Foxtrot and Tango brought dance floors to life in the early 1920s.
What Dances Were Popular In The 1920s
There were new rules (and sometimes no rules at all) for dancing: for the Charleston it was about the type of time signature, the positive 4/4, the hard beat.
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Whether solo, in a duet or in a group, the dance involved kicking and swinging the legs and rapidly clapping the arms in opposite directions.
He passed by a nation tired of the status quo and determined to bring something new and exciting to its generation.
Whether they were rebelling against the war, their parents, or the mechanization of the new modern age, one thing is certain: in the 1920s, dance moved away from the Edwardian era sense of good manners and traditional customs.
Many novice dancers tried to adapt the crazy dances they had seen performed by greats like Josephine Baker to solo efforts on the ballroom dance floor, leading to social disasters: dance floor crashes and collisions due to “funny antics.” “of impressionable. youth. .
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By many accounts, the Charleston craze didn’t take off until he appeared in a Broadway show called “Running Wild”: the featured song “The Charleston” written by James P. Johnson became an instant hit.
Young people in the United States and other countries embraced “joy”; in her heyday she was described with terms such as “wild”, “rebellious” and “theatrical”.
The hedonistic behavior of those completely engrossed in this Jazz Age movement was thought to be a physical reaction to the loss of loved ones.
The Charleston’s freedom and constant movement allowed the nation’s youth to banish the misery experienced during the First World War.
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Often described as “smooth” and “elegant”, fast or slow, the Foxtrot can be seen as a chameleon of dance forms adapting to the Hot or Sweet Jazz of the time.
A good example of the fragrant “Fox-Trot” is the black-and-white film of Miss Flora Le Breton and Mr. Cecil Reuben, winners of the 1920 World Dance Competition.
In one of the short film’s titles, these curious words appear in a sans serif font:
“Some of the Fox-Trots one knows do the ‘Camel Go,’ but from grace and precision of style this dance glides by itself.”
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Although there were many different styles of dance, a central and pervasive feature of the style revolved around long, sweeping movements.
Although popularized in history by the famous duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the original style and birth of the Foxtrot is believed to have been borrowed from African-American nightclub and country beats that were later incorporated into (then) modern pop. music and became popular in the early 1920s and 1930s.
From Uruguay and Argentina and from the streets of Buenos Aires came another fashionable dance of the 1920s, the Tango.
Tango arrived in Europe with what many believed to be an over-the-top sensuality, but for those driven to madness it was a skill, a “wandering embrace” that could only be performed out of love for the dance form. .
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According to Ricardo García Playa, author of “Reflection on the origins of Tango,” “between 1910 and 1920, tango appeared on 2,500 of the 5,500 records released.
In Nina George’s Little Bookshop in Paris, there is a part where the narrator revisits a tango club he visited twenty years ago for a long-lost love.
The novel’s interpretations described tango as many of these 1920s dancers must have heard it, an expression like no other.
“Tango is a real drug. Show your problems and your structures, but also the strengths that you hide from others so as not to disturb them. It shows what a couple can be to each other, how they can listen to each other. People who want to listen to themselves will hate tango.”
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As with all dances that peaked in popularity in the 1920s, the constant among them was the passion with which each was performed.
The inspiration once stifled by war and oppressed society could finally come to light, one dance step at a time. The dance known as the “Charleston” gained worldwide fame nearly a century ago and has lived on. as representing the carefree exuberance of the “Roaring Twenties”. Although this famous phenomenon shares its name with our hometown, it grew out of the cultural ingredients found in New York City’s melting pot at the beginning of the Jazz Age. We may not have invented “Charleston” in Charleston, but the evidence suggests that residents of the Palmetto City and the Lowcountry in general provided inspiration and key elements that define its unique rhythm and footwork.
“Charleston” is a multifaceted cultural phenomenon that emerged in the early 1920s. It’s a dance, a song and a set of words (that most people have never heard). All three forms came to public attention in late October 1923 in a Broadway revue called
, which ran for more than seven months at the New Colonial Theater in Midtown Manhattan. The African-American production included music by James P. Johnson (1894-1955), lyrics by Cecil Mack (1873-1944), and the talents of a large group of black singers and dancers. The popular success of
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Made “Charleston” a national and international hit in less than two years. To this day, “Charleston” is closely associated with the 1920s, an era often referred to as the “Jazz Age”. Despite the existence of federal laws prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, this decade is best remembered as an era of joyous parties, lots of glamour, energetic jazz and general hedonistic excess. Separately and together, a dance and tune called “Charleston” evokes the gay spirit of the “Roaring Twenties.”
So it’s worth asking the question: What (if anything) does the cultural phenomenon known as “Charleston” have to do with the city and county of Charleston, South Carolina? Well, that’s not an easy question to answer, but I’m willing to give it a shot as long as we all agree that we can’t cover the full depth of this topic in one podcast. With that caveat, I will try to follow a narrow path through a dense cultural history and lead you to a logically satisfying answer. In short, the connection between the music and dance of “Charleston” and the place we call home is not direct, it is not simple, and it is difficult to say. However, I can assure you that the connection exists.
The emergence of the “Charleston” phenomenon in New York City in the early 1920s was a direct result of the massive population shift now known as the “Great Migration”. During the first half of the 20th century, millions of African Americans left their homes in various countries in the South and moved north in search of economic opportunity and greater civil liberties. This migration began quietly in the years after slavery ended in 1865 and slowly increased in the late 20th century, when the so-called “Jim Crow” laws passed by the South often eliminated the already poor standard of living. non-white residents here. The flow of African Americans to the North increased dramatically during World War I and remained steady for several decades. Historians of the phenomenon estimate that more than six million black Americans moved from the agricultural South to the industrial North between 1910 and 1970.
This ongoing mass movement has brought about major and lasting changes in our country’s economy and political equation. And it had strong cultural implications. People of African descent had lived and worked in the South for nearly three centuries before the 1920s, mixing and harmonizing African cultures with one another and interacting with Native American and European cultures. Northern communities like New York were, of course, completely devoid of their African-American culture, but the Great Migration infused communities like Harlem with a rush of new habits and energy. The fertile environment gave rise to a rich cultural expression known as the Harlem Renaissance in New York and similar developments in other northern cities.
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“Charleston,” which means both song and dance, is an excellent example of the cultural effects of the Great Migration. James P. Johnson, whose catchy original song “Charleston” became known worldwide, later claimed to have borrowed his signature beat from South Carolina longshoremen who had moved to New York. Anyone familiar with Gullah-Geechee spiritual traditions will recognize that rhythm as an integral part of the Lowcountry shout or “scream,” so it’s not easy to hear.
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