Great Depression's Influence on American Vernacular Dance
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How did the Great Depression influence the evolution of American vernacular dance?
In the Great Depression, the American dream had become a nightmare. What was once the land of opportunity was now the land of desperation. The Great Depression was an economic slump in North America, Europe, and other industrialized areas of the world that began in 1929 and lasted until about 1939. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized Western world. Nevertheless, it had immense impact on the evolution of American vernacular dance by bringing jazz music and dance to the masses, raising the nation’s spirit through music and dance.
The Great Depression hit hard, but it hit African Americans the hardest. They…show more content… Yet another famous dance that evolved was the “Big Apple”, which originated in a small southern town. A group circle dance, it gave couples the opportunity to show off, or “shine”. It incorporated swing early swing steps and originally required a “caller”. Frankie Manning is accredited to bringing the Big Apple to New York and popularizing the dance with white culture.
The popularity of these aforementioned dances during the Depression can be easily interpreted as the psychological comfort it gave of "strength in numbers" and because it was more than just a dance: it was a unifying experience that provided healing and joy at a time when there was little to celebrate.
In the late 1930s, Katherine Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and has been called the "Matriarch and Queen Mother of Black Dance", production. One of her early appearances was in Cabin in the Sky, staged by George Balanchine that ran for 20 weeks in New York, with Dunham in the stunning role of “Georgia Brown”. Another famous role as a seductress during this period was the “Woman with a Cigar” from her solo role in the revue Shore Excursion. Her sense of rhythm, theater and costuming, as well as her choreography and dancing, put serious African American vernacular dance on the map once and for all.
Another example would be Bill “Bojangles”