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Monday
Aug222016

You’re Mad on Dances

CELEBRATING THE ROARING TWENTIES IN A SPECIAL SERIES

I’m not going to give you a big history lesson on the Charleston dance except to say it is the most famous dance associated with the 1920s. It was named after the harbour city of Charleston in South Carolina, and was first composed in 1923 for a Broadway show titled Runnin’ Wild. The peak years for the Charleston’s popularity were 1926–1927.

Wikipedia describes it thus: ‘At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap. Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage.’

Josephine Baker perfoming the CharlestonThe dress I am wearing, being quite short and skimpy on the bodice, is vaguely inspired by flapper dresses with its drop waist and gored skirt. It is grey silk chiffon, by Australian high street store Sportsgirl. I purchased it on eBay and was rather disappointed by its brevity once the package arrived and I saw it in person (and on my person!). I thought it was fine for a homage to the dance though, and had fun kicking my patent navy heels to an album of original Charleston recordings, including an amusing George Gershwin song performed by Fred and Adele Astaire:

FRED:
I've seen for days that you've got
The ways that must be checked
In you I never can detect
The slightest signs of intellect
You’re mad on dances, think of the chances you neglect
You never seem inclined to use your mind
And it's quite plain to see
That I'm the brains of the family …

[Read the full lyrics here, and watch a period video of the dance below.]

Photo: March 2014

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