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Popular 1920s Dances
The Roaring Twenties were the start of the modern age. Dance was exuberant and energetic. 1920s style. freed women from tight corsets and the new fashions of short hair and short skirts. In the decade between Great War and the Great Depression, the world was alive and vibrant.
1920s dances: the Baltimore Buzz
The "Buzz" was really part of 1920s dancing rather than a dance itself, but there was also a song by called the Baltimore Buzz by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake:
There have been a thousand raggy-draggy dances
That are danced in every hall
And there have been a thousand raggy-draggy prances
That are pranced at every ball
But the bestest one that was
Is called the Baltimore Buzz
First you take your babe and gently hold her
Then you lay her head upon her shoulder
Next you walk just like your legs are breaking
Do a fango like a tango
Then you star the shimmie to shaking
Then you do a raggy, draggo motion
Just like any ship up on the ocean
Slide, and then you hesitate
Glide, oh honey ain't it great!
You just go simply in a trance
With that Baltimore buzzing dance
Baltimore Buzz Music
The Baltimore Buzz was popularised in 1921 by Florence Mills who danced and sang in a popular Revue. It is a ragtime dance, danced on one foot, sliding the other foot up to it, then swapping feet to repeat.
(There is a different line-dance known as the Baltimore Strut (or New Jersey Strut) which starts with two steps to the right, two to the left; one forwards with the right foot, then one with the left. The forward steps are then repeated with knees raised.)
1920s dances: the Black Bottom
The Black Bottom is a close relative of the better known 1920s Charleston. It was born in the New Orleans jazz tradition at the start of the 20th Century, but is much older in basic form as a folk dance. The Black Bottom was brought to New York in the middle of the 1920s and over the course of a couple of years became immensely popular.
This video shows how the 1920s Black Bottom dance developed during the decade.
The 1920s are a classic American decade with speakeasys and Prohibition, flappers and gansters. Learn more about this unique decade of contradictions in this book.
1920s dances: the Cake Walk
The Cake Walk was a well established dance by the 1920s with it's roots in the Black music of the Deep South. It's set in ragtime and even well kown composers like Debussey wrote cake walks. Franky though, in my personal opinion, the dance itself looks pretty ridiculous! Scott Joplin, the undisputed king of ragtime music, mentionted it in lyrics:-"Let me see you do the rag-time dance,Turn left and do the cakewalk prance,Turn the other way and do the slow drag -Now take you lady to the World's FairAnd do the rag-time dance."
1920s dances: the Charleston
Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston (1926)
The Charleston is the sound of the Roaring Twenties with a driving jazz beat based on a 3-2 clave:-In Cuban popular music a chord progression can begin on either side of clave. When the progression begins on the three-side, the song or song section is said to be in 3-2 clave. When the chord progression begins on the two-side, it is in 2-3 clave. In North America, salsa and Latin jazz charts commonly represent clave in two measures of cut-time (2/2), this most likely being the influence of jazz conventions. When clave is written in two measures changing from one clave sequence to the other is a matter of reversing the order of the measures. - Source: Wikipedia (Creative Commons)
Although the basic steps are simple, it's usual to add flourishes and embellishments. One of the most common involves hands on knees as shown in the photograph of Josephine Baker above. In fact the term "Flapper", so strongly associated with 1920s women, is a reference to the Charlestone and the way that women would "flap" their arms and legs like a bird. It helped both Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers to rise to fame as renowned and popular dancers. The Charleston can be danced solo or with a partner.
The modern Charleston has developed from it's 1920s dance roots and is an established part of Lindy Hop dancing. The modern version often incorporates steps and moves from other 1920s dances such as the Black Bottom or the Cake Walk. The original 1920s Charleston was also a frenetically fast dance with up to 350 beats per minute. Modern dancing tends to have a somewhat slower pace.
1920s dances: the Foxtrot
The Foxtrot can be traced back to 1914 and was a popular fast jazz dance (slow, slow, quick, quick) and is a derivation of the older Two-step. The 1920s version is closer to the modern Quickstep than to the modern Foxtro - the dance style has split with the Foxtrot becoming slower while the Quickstep retains the original pace.
1920s dances: the Tango
The Tango Canyengue, the great dance of Latin America flourished until the Great Crash of 1929 and has the measure that everybody remembers: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Jalousie of 1925, was one of the most popular Tangos of the 1920s. The postcard above from 1919 carries a reference to the popular Hesitation Tango:Come let's make a dateTo Tango quite late,And when we get tiredWe'll just Hesitate.
Sounds of the Roaring Twenties
1920s dances: the Waltz
There are more than two dozen sounds of the Twenties on this MP3 album. I have featured some individual MP3s in the iTunes section but this is the full collection. You can also buy any of the individual tracks as separate MP3s. Many can be previewed for free. It even includes music for 1920s dances like the Camel Walk which I didn't have space to cover here.
The waltz significantly pre-dates the 1920s and to modern eyes seems an especially gentile dance; however in the late 19th century the waltz was somewhat risqué because the partners held each other. Not surprisingly dances like the Charleston were seen by some as dangerously corrupt.
About Kate Phizackerley - (Introducing your lensmistress)
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