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Social Dancing in America [2 volumes]: A History and Reference [Hardcover]

Ralph G. Giordano

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Book Description

Nov. 6 2006

This two-volume set relates the history of the most popular social dances, where they began, which dances survived the test of time and why, and what attracted American men and women to social dancing in these periods. Unlike other books on social dancing that taught people How to Dance, this set not only describes the dances, but also how and why Americans danced. This two-volume set is the most comprehensive examination of American social dance from the first settlements in 1607 through the birth of the nation in 1776 and into the beginning of the 21st century. Social Dancing in America encompasses the global nature of the ethnic contributions to the formation of many unique American social dances. Those influences included American Indian, Spanish, Caribbean, African, European, and other ethnic cultures that created original American social dances such as the Lindy Hop, Rock 'n' Roll, the Twist, Disco, Breakdancing, and Hip-Hop. The set is also a celebration of the American spirit embodied among everyday individuals as they danced for fun, recreation, and family celebrations such as weddings.

Social Dancing in America places social dancing in a historical, social, cultural, and political context. Volume 1 explores the integral role that social dancing played in the lives of Americans from the first settlements in 1607 through the the 19th century, often in the most unlikely of ways. For example, readers may be surprised to learn that George Washington was a well-known aficionado of social dancing, and that he incorporated the etiquette and manners of dances such as the Minuet as a means of diplomacy to secure European allies during the Revolutionary War. After his death, Americans continued to celebrate his birthday with a grand ball that included dancing. Volume 2 places social dance in a 20th-Century context, illustrating how social dancing itself paralled the social, economic, and cultural traditions of each era. For example, segregation and the Jim Crow mentality was cemented in place all over the United States, and for much of the century, dancing and dance halls were strictly segregated. Segregation forced a mass migration north, and with it came the transformation of Delta Blues music into an American original—Jazz. Jazz gave birth to the Charleston, and later evolved into Swing, which created the Lindy Hop. Later, with the advent of television, programming such as American Bandstand, Soul Train, Dance Fever, and MTV greatly influenced dance styles and modern trends such as Rock 'n' Roll, Freestyle, Disco, Breakdancing, and Hip-Hop.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 808 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwood (Nov. 6 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031333756X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313337567
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 18 x 6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2 Kg
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,022,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Booklist

Who would have thought that the topic of social dancing was so complex and nuanced or that it is so interesting? This beautifully composed, stylishly written examination of the social value of public dancing, as well as its function in reflecting changing values, begs to be read start to finish. The first chapter in volume 1 provides background on the history of social dance and American dance to 1740. The remaining four chapters cover the years 1740–1820, 1820–1865, and 1865–1900. Volume 2 is divided into seven chapters treating categories of twentieth-century dance, including the Charleston, swing, disco, and break dancing. Each chapter begins with a section on the political, cultural, and social climate and goes on to cover the dances themselves, followed by the venues where dancing typically took place. The discussions are deep and far ranging, dealing with political and religious controversies that dancing either expressed or stirred up. The text is laden with quotations from primary source material, and sidebars contain some choreographic information, such as diagrams and verbal instructions for the longways set and the quadrille. Highly informative black-and-white period reproductions and photographs extend the text perfectly. For example, photographs of both the Charleston and the shimmy shed light on the contemporary outrage over these dances. Both volumes conclude with bibliographies and detailed volume indexes. In addition, volume 1 has a "Select Bibliography of Online Dance Instruction Manuals Available from the Library of Congress," while volume 2 contains a "Select List of Hollywood Movies by Dance Type." This fascinating and readable work is suitable for any large performing-arts collection as well as collections on social history. It is a worthy companion to Maureen Needham's I See America Dancing (University of Illinois, 2002), which covers much of the same turf using primary source readings. Welton, Ann

Review

"Most take him for a minuet man, but George Washington very well could have waltzed on his first Inaugural Day. Clog dancing was made easy in publications by 1873, and at any time of the day or night someone on this planet is donning a long-beloved white polyester suit and shooting a right forefinger into the air. Giordano takes a good long look at how we danced, why and with whom across the years from the fair terpsichore and set dances so complicated they required flash cards to country dances, the Virginia Reel, the polka, the cake walk, the two-step, and the much more seriously intentioned Buffalo Dance and Ghost Dance, followed by ragtime, the Charleston, jitterbug, swing, the Latin dances, rock and roll, disco, breakdancing, and recent revivals of classic dances."

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Reference & Research Book News



"Social dancing has never enjoyed the cachet conferred on ballet or other theatrical dance forms, sometimes even when it comes to reference books. That is about to change with Giordano's comprehensive study of the subject spanning the centuries in the context of American social history. Volume 1, subtitled 'Fair Terpsichore to the Ghost Dance, 1607-1900,' illustrates the part social dancing has played in Americans' lives. It also contains the 'Select Bibliography of Online Dance Instruction Manuals Available from the Library of Congress' (available online at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/dihtml). Volume 2, subtitled 'Lindy Hop to Hip Hop, 1901-2000,' continues the story, connecting social dancing to societal developments throughout the 20th century. The text is enlivened by numerous illustrations, including sheet music and dancing manual covers, contemporary images, and period photographs. Each volume features an extensive bibliography. The popularity of television programs such as Dancing with the Stars (ABC) and Championship Ballroom Dancing (PBS) and the general resurgence of interest in ballroom dancing make this straightforward, detail-packed, and readable work an appropriate choice for public and academic collections."

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Library Journal



"Giordano provides readers with a broad historical perspective on dance as it has commingled with American society throughout the history of the US. Divided into chronological order, the chapters begin with an overview of the time period, including the events and the social, political, and cultural characteristics that affected each era's dances and participants. This orientation provides a good background for each dance entry that follows. This set's strength is in tracing the origins of particular dances and noting their evolution within the contextual fabric of American culture. Entries are written in an accessible style, often punctuated with nicely captioned photographs and/or basic step patterns, leaving readers with a more complete image of the movement involved in the dances as well as the proximity of partners. Commendably, the author includes Native American dance entries alongside those nonindigenous dances that influenced American culture. The bibliography and index are helpful, as is the select bibliography of online dance instruction manuals provided via the Library of Congress. Recommended. Lower-/upper-level undergraduates and general readers."

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Choice



"Who would have thought that the topic of social dancing was so complex and nuanced or that it is so interesting? This beautifully composed, stylishly written examination of the social value of public dancing, as well as its function in reflecting changing values, begs to be read start to finish….This fascinating and readable work is suitable for any large performing-arts collection as well as collections on social history."

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Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin



"There are two good reasons to buy this book. First, it clearly fills a gap in the existing literature; second, the research that makes up the two volumes is both scholarly and carefully detailed….The work illustrates and illuminates how social dancing paralleled the social, economic, and cultural characteristics of each era….Social Dancing in America constitutes the most comprehensive examination of the subject available….[G]reat for public or academic libraries."

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Reference & User Services Quarterly


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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind - but has its limitations March 20 2008
By Karin Norgard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the only book (well, two-volume set) I know of that attempts to provide a comprehensive history of social dancing in the United States. For that reason alone, it is a must-have for social dance fanatics like myself despite the high price tag. It is a great reference book and provides interesting information on the cultural and historical background of each time period. It also provides some amusing trivia on the social dance practices in America before the 20th century. However, I found that this book was much better in covering the swing dances, which is probably natural given that the author's dance background is mostly in swing. Being a Latin dance enthusiast myself, I found the Latin dances were not adequately covered and in some cases were not a good reflection of the history and importance of these dances. Some of the most fundamental aspects of Latin dance history in the U.S. was left out; bachata, for instance, was not even mentioned. However, this two-volume set is a tremendous leap forward in providing a reference and resource for social dance lovers. For this, it is a must-have.

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