FASHION & DANCE.
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Influence of changing fashion on Amer. ballroom dancing between mid-19th & mid-20th Cent.... More...
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Influence of changing fashion on Amer. ballroom dancing between mid-19th & mid-20th Cent.
This paper will be concerned with the ways that fashion influences dance movement. Emphasis will be placed on the influence of fashion on American ballroom dancing as it developed between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. There is little doubt that fashion has an impact on dance movement. In this regard, the historian Peter Buckman has claimed that "styles in dress and manners have as important an effect on dance as does music" (Buckman, 1978, p. 114). In contemporary ballroom dancing, freedom of movement is considered to be a very important factor. This is because most modern dances require the dancers to move their entire bodies (Allen, 1985, p. 28). However, this freedom of movement was not always as important in ballroom dancing as it is today. In the early part of the nineteenth
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Because of its livelyrhythms, swing music inspired dancers to make use of vivid actions on thedance floor. London: Herbert Jenkins. (1984, November 19). Sorell, Walter. Padded bustles were also used tohelp make the skirts stick out in the rear. For example, thecakewalk involved "strutting" movements and "inventive steps" as couplestried to show off their dancing talents and thus win prizes (p. It is obvious that thiswidespread popularity was due mainly to the changes in fashion which hadtaken place in the early nineteenth century. Saturday Evening Post 257: p. This was true for men's fashion as well aswomen's. References Allen, Michael. In this regard, the historian Peter Buckman has claimedthat "styles in dress and manners have as important an effect on dance asdoes music" (Buckman, 1978, p. However, this restrictive trend in fashion came to a dramatic endin the years immediately following the First World War. The popular dances of that time, such as the waltz, reflect thisnew freedom in fashion. There is little doubt that fashion has an impacton dance movement. Let's dance: Social ballroom and folkdancing. 158). Over thefollowing two decades, movement in ballroom dancing became even moreextreme, culminating in the swing era with the frenzied motions of thejitterbug. In the 192 's, modern dances based on ragtimerhythms came into vogue. Because of its expressive movement, many people consideredthe waltz to be "indecent" when it first appeared on the dance floor(Allen, 1985, p. (196 ). (1978). Buckman, Peter. The movements involved in jitterbugdancing were very extreme, to say the least. .alive and kicking. 114). 189). Changes in ballroom dance at the time also reflected theshift from an aristocratic to a middle-class society. New York: Paddington Press. Compared with the minuet, the waltz had far more "vivacious steps"(Clarke and Crisp, 1981, p. S. This isbecause most modern dances require the dancers to move their entire bodies(Allen, 1985, p. Clarke, Mary, and Clement Crisp. 114). Again, this dance required very little in the way of expressivemovement. 28). Asnoted by Buckman, "the new fashions certainly allowed greater freedom onthe dance floor." (p. 67). In terms offashion, the women of the period began abandoning their puffed up dresseswith hoops of steel. New York:Grosset and Dunlap.----------------------- 1 During thattime, men also wore clothing which was tight and restrictive in terms ofmovement. 28+. . Richardson, Philip J. By the 185 's, the waltz was oneof the most popular ballroom dances in America. By theearly 192 's, clothing styles were placing more and more emphasis oncomfort and flexibility. Fashion has alwaysbeen one of the most important aspects of this social climate. This was "a quiet, glidingdance" which was favored by the people of the time because it was "inkeeping both with their etiquette and the rich, heavy materials of theladies' costumes" (Sorell, 1967, p. This was the waltz, anexpressive dance which originated in the mountainous regions of centralEurope. The revolutions which had occurred in America and Europe hadbrought about an end to the period of aristocratic rule. Another popular dance was theminuet. In the 193 's and 194 's, movement in ballroom dance continued toundergo expressive development. The pretentiousand ornate clothing that had existed before became more practical. 1 1). Throughoutits history, ballroom dance has been "influenced always by the socialclimate of the time" (Clarke and Crisp, 1981, p. 83). Along with this increased freedom in fashion came a new freedom interms of ballroom dance. NewYork: Crown Publishers. According to Richardson, theincreased flexibility in clothing styles of that time made the intricatesteps of the new dance "easier to execute" (Richardson, 196 , p. 122. Becauseit was more practical, the clothing allowed greater ease of movement thanever before. New York: Fairchild Publications. However, they also made it difficult for people to make any kind ofextreme movements. Because of this need for increased movement, the new,looser fashions which evolved at the time were well suited to these newdances. 114). The history of dance. In turn, dance styles in America alsobecame more flexible until they reached the level of freedom which hasexisted since the late 195 's and which continues to exist today. Thus, dances beganto be held in public "assembly rooms" rather than in palaces and courtslike they had been before (Clarke and Crisp, 1981, p. 73). 114). One of the most popular of the new dances among the youngpeople of the time was the jitterbug. All of thesechanges in fashion were important in the development of dance movement. Prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, fashions for bothwomen and men were very restrictive. As a result of these clothing styles, the dances of the timewere likewise very limited in terms of movement. 1 5). As Murray notes: "For the first time, women showedtheir legs, and the first wave of short skirts to hit during this centuryappeared" (Murray, 1989, p. In place of the "rigid corsets and widened skirts" ofthe previous era, there were "lovely high-waisted gowns, usually oflightweight textiles" (Murray, 1989, p. 1 4). In contrast to the few simple dancestyles that had existed before, ballroom dancing in the post-war era brokeoff "in dozen of directions, from the relatively placid fox trot to theglorious mambo" (Shapiro, 1984, p. These dances required more radical movements thanever before, and their popularity was due primarily to the shorter skirtsand other freer clothing styles which had developed at the time. However, it is unlikely that any of themwould have ever come into being if styles in fashion hadn't evolved first. From themiddle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century,fashion styles in America became increasingly free and comfortable. This restriction on movement was apparent in thepopular ballroom dances of the time. In the 192 's, American dance required morevariety in movement than ever before. In contemporary ballroom dancing,freedom of movement is considered to be a very important factor. For men, the tight kneebreeches of the past were replaced by "roomy" trousers which provided muchmore freedom of movement (Buckman, 1978, p. During the late nineteenth century, clothing styles in America becamemore restrictive again. During the early nineteenth century, both fashion and dance began tochange. By 185 , this type offashion had been eliminated in favor of more loose-fitting, comfortableclothing. This paper will be concerned with the ways that fashion influencesdance movement. 168-169). In the early part of thenineteenth century, dancers were far more restricted in their motions.This was primarily because the clothing styles of the time were morebinding than they are today. The dance through the ages. As aresult of this development, clothing styles gradually permitted morefluidity of motion for dancers. In fact, the minuet has been described as being "static,unemotional and totally mannered" (p. It was also fashionable for both men and womento wear wigs. 16 ). The art of ballroom dancing.Newsweek 1 4: p. Often, these wigs were piled up to ridiculous heights on topof the head. Thus, during the post-war years, "men's clothing was also in theprocess of becoming simpler, paralleling women's costume" (p. For both men and women,the wigs and piled-up hairstyles which were popular before "wereprogressively abandoned in favor of natural hair" (p. Shapiro, Laura. 1 4). 74). Emphasis will be placed on the influence of fashion onAmerican ballroom dancing as it developed between the mid-nineteenth andmid-twentieth centuries. (1989). Photographsand motion pictures of jitterbug dancers in the 193 's and 194 's show thatthe dancers wore non-restrictive clothing, such as baggy trousers andloose, flowing skirts. Nevertheless, its popularity quickly spreadthroughout Europe and the United States. Ballroom dancing . Sometimes, women also wore a pannier, or wireframing, which helped puff out the skirt. One of the strongest influenceson dance at that time was the ragtime craze which was sweeping the nation.Ragtime was a type of music which featured heavily syncopated rhythms.Because of these rhythms, "ragtime itself was music to move to" (Buckman,1978, p. Throughout the late nineteenth century andearly twentieth century, fashion styles underwent dramatic change. The other popular dances of the time, such as thetango, rumba and cha-cha, also required more movement than the dances ofprevious eras did. During the 193 's, a type of dance musicknown as swing came into being. These styles in fashion were considered attractive at thetime. The wildly expressive dances which made use of ragtimemusic required more freedom of movement than ever before. Studying the development of ballroom dancing clearly shows thatchanges in fashion have a powerful impact on dance movement. Thefox trot, although tame by today's standards, required "feverish" and"jerky" movements which included "hops, kicks, and capers" among otherthings (pp. As a result of this greater freedom, a new ballroom dance becamepopular during the early nineteenth century. In fact, some ofthe most radical changes to ever take place in fashion history occurredduring those years. As in the case of ragtime, swing was knownfor being an extremely rhythmic style of music. 1 1). It is highly unlikely that this energetic danceform would have evolved if clothing styles hadn't first become more loose-fitting and comfortable. 28). The changes infashion at the time reflected this important development. In the words of Buckman,jitterbugging employed "a violent, even frenzied athleticism" in which theyoung people "were thrilled by the opportunity to throw each other aroundthe floor while keeping to the beat" (Buckman, 1978, p. (1981). This type of skirt was designed to puff out eitherat the sides or in the back. Women generally wore a type of skirtknown as a polonaise. 1 1). (1967). Men generally wore kneebreeches and tight jackets. Prior to the nineteenth century, women often worepuffy dresses which were held up by restrictive wire hoops. 122). Sorell has described the waltz as having"a refreshing, natural spirit," and has claimed that "its intoxicatingrhythm, executed in enrapturing closeness of the dancing couples, was agyration into oblivion, a joyful, almost ecstatic expression" (Sorell,1967, p. In an effort to attain the "hour glass figure"that was fashionable at that time, women returned to the use of corsets andbustles. Prior to the nineteenth century, oneof the most popular dances was the pavan. At thesame time, the use of movement in ballroom dancing became increasinglyfluid and expressive. (1985, January/February). Today, all of these various styles of dance are still verypopular in American ballrooms. 74). Changing styles in fashion: Who,what, why. Murray, Maggie Pexton. However, this freedom of movement was not always asimportant in ballroom dancing as it is today. The social dances of thenineteenth century in England. Murray claims that this was "the firsttime in costume history that women had shown their legs" (p.
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