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Dancing Class: Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Divides in American Dance, 1890-1920

Dancing Class: Gender, Ethnicity, and Social Divides in American Dance, 1890-1920 (Hardback)

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At the turn of the century, new dance practices provided vehicles for social engagement and offered grounds for interchange and jockeying between class groups. Along these lines of engagement, dance also provided a medium for negotiating matters of gender. Women seized the moment to develop new dance practices. On the East Coast and in the Midwest, middle class women found platforms for dance innovation in the settlement house movement. They taught classes in folk, gymnastic, and historical dancing styles, attempting to offset the physical and cultural effects of mass production, industry and urban crowding. In New York City, a woman-run after-school folk-dancing program for girls pursued similar aims: both addressed questions of citizenship and identity through performative means.Social welfare workers also took part in dance hall reform drives. They attempted to channel the uses that working girls made of public entertainment spaces and to contain the types of dance that girls pursued there. In these several initiatives, the contest for class leadership was argued through dance and matters of the body.

Endeavoring to manage immigrant and working class people, middle class and elite women refashioned their gender roles as well. They became choreographers and directors of new dance and movement practices; they formulated professional occupations for themselves, as dance pedagogues, authors of dance instruction books and social welfare workers.Some bid for recognition as cultural arbiters, providing performance platforms for emerging female soloists like Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis. New dance practices generated new physical means with which to represent cultural issues. From salons to dance halls, theater dance to settlement houses, new movement performance events questioned notions of social order and conceptions of polity. Inherently dynamic, staged periodically, they offered ongoing remakings of what it might mean to be 'American'. By examining master narratives of modern dance history, "Dancing Class" demonstrates the cultural agency of new Progressive-era dance practices.

History & PoliticsHistory: specific events & topicsSocial & cultural historyLGBT & Gender StudiesGender studiesTransgender, Genderqueer & IntersexMusic & DanceDanceChoreographyPhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesCultural StudiesPopular culturePhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesSocial groupsEthnic studies Publisher: Indiana University Press Publication Date: 01/11/1999 ISBN-13: 9780253335715  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Linda J. Tomko is Associate Professor of Dance at the University of California, Riverside. She is President of the Society of Dance History Scholars and Co-Director of the annual Stanford University Summer Workshop in Baroque Dance. In 1997 she won the Gertrude Lippincott Prize, awarded by SDHS, for her article ""Fete Accompli,"" published in Corporealities.

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