American Dance Culture & Styles • Folk & Social Dance in America: • Americans easily accept multiculturalism in dance. • Salsa clubs are popular in certain regions of the U.S. • Swing dance is making a comeback from the Harlem swing of the 1940s.
Square Dance • Began in New England • Immigrants from different countries would familiarize each other with their dance traditions. • The schottische, the jig, reels and the quadrille were a few dances that were performed in colonial New England. • Because there were so many different dances to remember, “callers” emerged to announce the steps. • An affordable and convenient form of entertainment requiring only a wooden floor, a caller, and a fiddler. • By the 1950s, square dance had evolved to a very large event.
The Virginia Reel • Most popular square dance. • Many variations from simple to complex. • The formation involves two lines of couples, partners facing each other, with 5-7 feet between the lines. • Lines have a head and foot (head couple is closest to musicians). • 6 couples maximum. • Step lightly on toes or balls of feet. • Calls instruct to “honor the partner,” “do-si-do,” or “reel in a circle.”
Swing Dance • Made a comeback in U.S. • 1920s—the Charleston (named for Charleston, SC) • 1930s—the Lindy Hop (energetic dance possibly named after aviator Charles Lindbergh) • Popular forms of swing: East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Jitterbug, & Jive. • Arthur Murray studios taught a large public audience. • 1950s --TV programs (American Bandstand) were popular in the U.S. • Originated from African-American dancers, dancing to early Jazz music.
Vaudeville • Beginning of the 20th Century, ragtime was a popular form of music in U.S. • Vaudeville--a stage variety show with singing, dancing, comedy skits/animal acts. • Late 1880s-1930s, vaudeville was the popular form of theatre that, mixed with ragtime music, influenced the foxtrot.
Foxtrot • Introduced by a young vaudeville performer named Harry Fox. • Movies were becoming more popular, so live theatre struggled to stay in. • In 1914, the New York Theatre was converted into a movie house. • Vaudeville acts shown between movies—Harry Fox hired to dance to ragtime music. • The roof of the building was converted to the Jardin de Danse (began dancing Fox’s Trot in the evenings). • Vernon and Irene Castle, exhibition dancers, helped popularized it in U.S. • It was set to a 4/4 beat with a slow-slow-quick-quick foot pattern.
Cha-Cha • Brought to U.S. from Havana, Cuba. • While vacationing, Americans learned the new dance, which resembled the mambo and the rhumba. • Feet close to the floor with free-flowing pelvic or hip movement. • The movement of the feet gives us the sounds of “cha-cha-cha.”
American Artistic Dance in the Modern Era • 2 Important figures of the modern era: • 1. Martha Graham (1894-1991)— • Pioneer of modern dance in America. • Born in Pittsburgh, relocated to California. • Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan are Graham’s contemporaries. • Martha revolutionized modern dance by making social and political statements through dance.
Graham continued… • Made dancing a more athletic art. • Warm-ups of intense pelvic contractions and relaxation (ultimate muscle control). • Cave of Her Heart (1946)—recreated the story of the mythical character Medea. • “All things I do are in every woman.” • Appalachian Spring (1944)—follows a young bride on the American frontier. • Women’s issues were at the heart of her dances. • Collaboration with: • Isamu Noguchi—designed simplistic architectural sets for her dances. • Aaron Copeland—American composer who wrote music for Appalachian Spring.
2. Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) • The epitome of dance in the modern and contemporary era. • Born in Texas. • Studied with Graham and other dance greats. • Performed in many Broadway musicals. • Opened his own dance company/school—the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. • Traditions in African-American history and culture using jazz, blues, and gospel music and exemplifying folk heroes. • Included movements from African dance.
Ailey continued… • Most of his pieces are conceptual and without plot (abstract or non-representational). • Best pieces include: Blues Suite, Revelations, Streams, and Witness. • Created 79 dance works. • After his death, his company was directed by Judith Jamison.