America Dances 1897-1948
The video covers four periods in the history of dance: 1897-1919, 1920-1929, 1930-1939, and 1939-1948. Each period of dance history is covered in depth, with films dating back to the 1890’s. Beginning with the Cakewalk, and going on through the Charleston, dance marathons of the depression-era, Lindy Hop and on into Jitterbugging and the Rumba. This is interesting viewing for dance aficionados, and anyone wanting to see how dancing and dress have morphed over the 50 years covered.
I found this not only interesting viewing, but fascinating at times. These are actual films shot in the era presented, and the people and clothing were as much fun to watch as the dancing. There’s a segment that takes place in the early 1900’s where a couple is doing the Fox Trot at home, while laughing and obviously having a great time. The Black Bottom dance had its genesis in the African American community, from watching a cow stuck in the mud, and the manner in which the animal pulled one leg and then the other out of it’s predicament. Out of this came the Black Bottom! There was a scene in the 1920’s of a group at the beach in their very-covered-up beach attire, doing the Beach Cake Walk. I was particularly interested, because I’ve got a photo album with photos of my mother in the same type of bathing suit, at a house party in Minnesota on Lake Calhoun, circa 1918.
During the Depression era, dance contests were all the rage, and people would dance for hundreds of hours non-stop, dragging their partner around, trying to get the cash prizes awarded. These scenes depicted the desperation levels people reach in really hard times, and the things they’re willing to do for money. I recommend this video for anyone interested in dancing, or history in general. This was well edited, and none of the scenes were too long.