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Peter Gammond

A 19th-century African-American dance. It originated among plantation slaves (c.1850 reputedly to parody the promenades that opened the plantation owners formal balls In the 1890s it became commercial entertainment and it was used for social dancing at the turn of the 20th century The music is a ...

Article

Dance  

Robert H. Gudmestad and Kathleen Thompson

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with dance from the early eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth century The first article discusses the transmission of African dance traditions to North America by slaves and the new expressions that arose while the second article discusses the movement of ...

Article

Vèvè A. Clark

Dunham, who is best known for choreography based on African-American, Caribbean, West African, and South American sources, began her dance career in Chicago with the Little Theatre Company of Harper Avenue. That experience was followed by study with Mark Turbyfill and Ruth Page of the Chicago Civic Opera. Dunham's other primary influence during this period was Ludmilla Speranzeva, a Kamerny-trained modern dancer from Russia, whose teaching put equal emphasis on both dance and acting technique. She worked as well with Vera Mirova, a specialist in “Oriental” dance.

Out of her work with Turbyfill and Page, Dunham conceived the idea for a ballet nègre, and she later founded the Negro Dance Group in 1934; the group performed Dunham's Negro Rhapsody at the Chicago Beaux Arts Ball, and Dunham herself made a solo performance in Page's La Guiablesse at the Chicago Civic Opera in 1931 While enrolled ...

Article

USdancer, teacher, choreographer, and director who helped establish African-American dance as an international theatre form. She studied anthropology, specializing in dance at the University of Chicago, and took dance classes locally, making her major professional debut in Page's La Guillablesse in 1933. After a period of dance research in the West Indies (1937–8) she returned to Chicago to work for the Federal Theatre Project, and was then appointed director of dance for the New York Labor Stage in 1939, choreographing movement for plays and musicals. In 1940 she presented her own programme of work, Tropics and Le Jazz Hot—from Haiti to Harlem, with a specially assembled company. This launched her career as a choreographer. In the same year she and her company danced in the Broadway musical Cabin in the Sky (chor. Balanchine after which she moved to Hollywood to ...

Article

Graeme Boone and James Sellman

The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”

In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...

Article

David N. Gellman

From the middle of the eighteenth century into the early nineteenth century, Negro Election Day served as the most significant African American festival in New England. For as long as a week African Americans congregated to select community leaders and to socialize with one another. These festive gatherings allowed New England's black residents to maintain their ties with one another and with elements of African culture. Thus, Negro Election Day represented a creative response to the twin oppressions of the African slave trade and the isolation of black life in New England, where a relatively small number of blacks were dispersed among a much larger white population.

Negro Election Day coincided with Election Day in Massachusetts Connecticut Rhode Island and New Hampshire an important event on the Puritan calendar dating back to the seventeenth century during which white New Englanders not only voted but also gathered for a variety of ...

Article

C. S'thembile West

Primus, Pearl (29 November 1919–29 October 1994), dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, was born in Trinidad, the daughter of Edward Primus and Emily Jackson, and migrated with her family to New York City when she was two years old. She majored in biology and pre-medicine at Hunter College of the City University of New York and graduated in 1940. Seeking support for graduate studies, she solicited help from the National Youth Administration (NYA). Under the auspices of the NYA she was enrolled in a dance group, subsequently auditioned for the New Dance Group in New York, and earned a scholarship with that institution.

During Primus’s tenure at the New Dance Group, she began to do research on African culture. She visited museums, consulted books, articles, and pictures for months to produce on 14 February 1943 her first significant dance work, African Ceremonial for which she had ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Inspired by the success of the segregated Roseland and Arcadia Ballrooms in downtown New York City on Broadway, the white businessmen Moe Gale and Jay Faggen opened a dance hall for African Americans on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. The two white entrepreneurs bought an entire block of property and oversaw the construction of the palatial ballroom, which boasted marble staircases, thick carpets, two bandstands, a soda fountain, and room for 7,000 patrons. Gale and Faggen hired Charles Buchanan, an African American, to manage the Savoy, which he did for the ballroom's thirty-two years of operation. Opening on Friday, March 12, 1926, to the music of Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra, the venture achieved instant success. The Savoy was the first elegant and spacious ballroom in a neighborhood of cramped and poorly ventilated clubs.

During the 1920s and 1930s the Savoy attracted crowds of Harlem residents as well as white ...

Article

Ben Penglase

At the end of the nineteenth century, just at the time of the abolition of slavery in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro's Praça Onze was the center of a neighborhood composed largely of Afro-Brazilians. Many of these people were recent migrants from the state of Bahia, and the Praça Onze neighborhood became known as “Pequena África” (or small Africa). Tia Ciata moved to Rio from Bahia at the age of twenty-two, and during the day worked selling home-cooked food at a food stall. Tia Ciata was also deeply involved in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. At night and on the weekends she hosted gatherings at her home in Praça Onze that united some of the most famous black Brazilian musicians and composers, probably serving as one of the birthplaces of Samba music.

See also Afro-Brazilian Culture.