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Jazz DanceA History of the Roots and Branches$
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Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813049298

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813049298.001.0001

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Vernacular Jazz Dance and Race in Hollywood Cinema

Vernacular Jazz Dance and Race in Hollywood Cinema

(p.240) 29 Vernacular Jazz Dance and Race in Hollywood Cinema
Jazz Dance

Susie Trenka

University Press of Florida

The manifold varieties of jazz dance have always dominated dance in mainstream American cinema. Given jazz dance’s African roots and its many manifestations in the African-American vernacular, it is not surprising that its use in film almost always implicates issues of race and racism. This article looks at vernacular jazz dance in mainstream American cinema as a focal point of American race relations, focusing on two particularly influential areas of popular vernacular jazz dance: first, the authentic jazz dance developed alongside the jazz music of the 1920s to 40s and featured prominently in films of the same period; and second, the hip-hop dance which first appeared in film in the 1980s and which continues to be hugely popular in contemporary commercial cinema (as well as music television). Early jazz tap figures discussed include Bill Robinson, Jeni LeGon, and the Nicholas Brothers.

Keywords:   Authentic jazz dance, Cinema, Hip-hop dance, Jazz dance, Jazz music, Jeni LeGon, Nicholas Brothers, Racism, Vernacular jazz dance

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