Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue


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Oh, Lady! Wodehouse ; Lyrics by Guy Bolton , P. Play Original. Musical Original Comedy Operetta. Pretty Mrs. Kerr , R. Burnside ; Lyrics by C. Special Original Revue Vaudeville. Oh, I Say! Musical Original Operetta Romance. Musical Revival Comedy Operetta.

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Musical Revival Operetta. The Beggar Student Mar 22, - Apr 19, Musical Original Comedy Opera. Play Original Pantomime. Ziehrer ; Written by Edgar Smith. McLellan ; Lyrics by C. Jerome , Louis A. Musical Original Opera. Musical Original Play. Pixley ; Lyrics by Frank S. Smith ; Lyrics by Edward B.

Claypoole , Will Heelan.

Swan ; Lyrics by James O'Dea. Musical Original Extravaganza. Cobb ; Lyrics by Safford Waters. Tanner , Joseph W. Herbert , R.

Burnside ; Lyrics by R. Musical Original Comedy Fantasy Opera. Newnham Davis ; Lyrics by Percy Greenbank. Musical Original Comedy Opera Satire. Musical Original Comedy Extravaganza. Play Revival. Musical Original Comedy Vaudeville. Barnet ; Lyrics by R. Special Original Farce. The Casino Girl Aug 06, - Sep Musical Revival Comedy. Smith ; Lyrics by Ludwig Englander. As Africans were transplanted to America, African religious circle dance rituals, which had been of central importance to their life and culture, were adapted and transformed Stuckey The African American Juba, for example, derived from the African djouba or gioube , moved in a counterclockwise circle and was distinguished by the rhythmic shuffling of feet, clapping hands, and "patting" the body, as if it were a large drum.

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With the passage of he Slave Laws in the s prohibiting the beating of drums for the fear of slave uprisings, there developed creative substitutes for drumming, such as bone- clapping, jawboning, hand-clapping, and percussive footwork. There were also retentions by the indentured Irish, as well as parallel retentions between the Irish and enslaved Africans, of certain music, dance and storytelling traditions.

Both peoples took pride in skills like dancing while balancing a glass of beer or water on their heads, and stepping to intricate rhythmic patterns while singing or lilting these same rhythms.

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Some contend that the cakewalk, a strutting and prancing dance originated by plantation slaves to imitate and satirize the manners of their white masters, borrows from the Irish tradition of dancing competitively for a cake. And that Africans may have transformed the Irish custom of jumping the broomstick into their own unofficial wedding ceremony at a time when slaves were denied Christian rites. The oral traditions and expressive cultures of the West Africans and Irish that converged and collided in America can best be heard.

The fusion of these in America produced black and fiddlers who "ragged" or syncopated jig tunes. Similarly, the African-American style of dance that angled and relaxed the torso, centered movement in the hips, and favored flat-footed gliding, dragging, and shuffling steps, melded with the Irish-American style of dance that stiffened the torso, minimalized hip motion, and emphasized dexterous footwork that favored bounding, hopping, and shuffling Kealiinohomoku By , "jigging" became the general term for this new American percussive hybrid that was recognized as a "black" style of dancing in which the body was bent at the waist and movement was restricted from the waist down; jumping, springing, and winging air steps made it possible for the air-born dancer, upon taking off or landing, to produce a rapid and rhythmic shuffling in the feet.

Jigging competitions featuring buck-and-wing dances, shuffling ring dances, and breakdowns abounded on the slave plantations where dancing was encouraged and often enforced. As James W. Smith, an ex-slave born in Texas around , remembers: "Master.

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Colored folk comes from all around to see who could jig the best. Everyone round tries to git somebody to best him. He could. He could whirl round and such, all the movement from his hips down" Stearns , Any dance in the so-called Negro style was called a breakdown, and it was always a favorite with the white riverboat men.

Ohio flatboatmen indulged in the Virginia breakdown. And in Life on the Mississippi Mark Twain wrote that "keelboatmen got out an old fiddle and one played and another patted juba and the rest turned themselves loose on a regular old-fashioned keelboat breakdown. The Lancashire Clog was another percussive form that contributed to the mix during this period. Danced in wooden-sole shoes, the Clog came to America from the Lancashire region of England in the s and in the next forty years had rapidly evolved into such new styles as the Hornpipe, Pedestal, Trick, Statue, and Waltz Clog.

The Clog also melded with forms of jigging to produce a variety of percussive styles ranging from ballroom dances with articulate footwork and formal figures to fast-stomping competitive solos that were performed by men on the frontier.

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None of these percussive forms, however, had syncopated rhythm; in other words, they all lacked swinging rhythms that would later come in such percussive forms as the Buck and Wing and Essence dances that would lead to the Soft Shoe. Though African-Americans and European-Americans borrowed and copied from each other in developing a solo vernacular style of dancing, there was a stronger draw of African-American folk material by white performers.


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By the 's, "Ethiopian delineators," many of them English and Irish actors, arrived in America. John Durang's "Hornpipe," a clog dance that mixed ballet steps with African-American shuffle-and-wings, was performed in blackface make-up Moore By , the singing-dancing "Negro Boy" was established as a dancehall character by blackface impersonators who performed jigs and clogs to popular songs.

In , the Irishman Thomas Dartmouth Rice created "Jump Jim Crow," a black version of the Irish jig that appropriated a Negro work song and dance, and became a phenomenal success. By , the minstrel show, a blackface act of songs, fast-talking repartee in Negro dialects and shuffle-and-wing tap dancing became the most popular form of entertainment in America.

From the minstrel show, the tap act inherited the walk-around finale, with dances that included competitive sections in a performance that combined songs, jokes, and specialty dances. It is largely because of William Henry Lane c. Born a free man, Lane grew up in the Five Points district of lower Manhattan, whose thoroughfares were lined with brothels and saloons that were largely occupied by free blacks and indigent Irish immigrants. Learning to dance from an "Uncle" Jim Lowe, an African-American jig and reel dancer of exceptional skill, Lane was unsurpassed in grace and technique and was popular for imitating the steps of famous minstrel dancers of the day, and then execute his own specialty steps which no one could copy.

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Lane is considered the single most influential performer in nineteenth century dance. His grafting of African rhythms and a loose body styling onto the exacting techniques of jig and clog forged a new rhythmic blend of percussive dance that was considered the earliest form of American tap dance. When black performers finally gained access to the minstrel stage after the Civil War, the tap vocabulary was infused with a variety of new steps, rhythms, and choreographic structures from African-American social dance forms. Tap dances like "The Essence of Old Virginia," originally a rapid and pigeon-toed dance performed on the minstrel stage, was slowed down and popularized in the s by the African-American minstrel Billy Kersands.

The Essence would later be refined by the Irish-American minstrel George Primrose into a graceful Soft Shoe, or Song-and-Dance, to become the most elegant style of tap dancing on the musical stage. The Reconstruction era was also the time when technical perfection in tap dance was valued and awarded, and when the obsession with precision, lightness and speed—which had long been valued in traditional Irish Jig dancing—became the ruling standard of judgment in publicly contested challenge dances.

Clarke, a professional jig dancer. Clarke did a straight jig with eighty-two steps and won the cup. Edwards broke down after doing sixty-five steps. Jack's Creole Company and South Before the War brought new styles of black vernacular stepping to audiences across America. While black vaudeville troupes like Black Patti's Troubadours featured cakewalk and buck-and-wing specialists in lavish stage productions, traveling medicine shows, carnivals and Jig Top circuses featured chorus lines and comics dancing an early style of jazz-infused tap that combined shuffles, wings, drags and slides with flat-footed buck and eccentric dancing.

At the turn of the twentieth century, when the syncopated and duple-metered rhythms of ragtime were introduced on the musical stage, tap dance underwent its most significant transformation. The music of Ragtime that was created from a new and unprecedented borrowing and blending of European melodic and harmonic complexities and African-derived syncopation evolved the earliest form of jazz. So too, tap dance, in its absorption of early ragtime and jazz rhythms, evolved into jazz tap dance.

The all-black Broadway musical, Clorindy, or the Origins of the Cakewalk presents a sterling example of this turn-of the-century jazz and tap fusion. Will Marion Cook's music for Clorindy was marked by the distinctly syncopated rhythm of ragtime, while Paul Laurence Dunbar's lyrics were performed in a syncopated Negro dialect "Dam de lan', let the white folks rule it!

In Dahomey , another turn-of-the-century black musical, saw Bert Williams playing the role of the low-shuffling Fool, and his partner George Walker in the role of the high-strutting Dandy. Wearing blackface makeup and shoes that extended his already-large feet, Williams shuffled along in a hopeless way, interspersing grotesque and offbeat slides between choruses, while Walker as the "spic-and-span Negro" turned his cocky strut into a high-stepping cakewalk that he varied dozens of times.

In "Cakewalk Jig," Williams and Walker danced buck-and-wings, bantam twists, and rubber-legging cakewalks to a "ragged" up jig, thus introducing a black vernacular dance style to Broadway that was an eccentric blend of the shuffle, strut-turned cakewalk, and grind, or mooche. At the turn of the century, it was imperative for tap dancers to compete in buck-and-wing and cakewalk contests in order to earn the status of professional and gain entry onto the Broadway musical stage.

With a gold medal and the valuable publicity that was bestowed upon winning, Robinson was targeted as the new man to challenge. While Robinson fused ragtime syncopation with a light-footed and vertical style of jigging that favored the elegant soft-shoe of the famed Irish-American dancer George Primrose, "King" Rastus Brown was known for a flat-footed style called Buck dancing.

Among the oldest styles of percussive stepping dating back to the plantation days, Buck dancing worked the whole foot close to the ground with shuffling, slipping, and sliding step, with movement mostly from the hips down. Brown developed the Buck style into a paddle-and-roll style which was perfected in his famous "Buck Dancer's Lament," which consisted of six bars of the time step plus a two-bar, improvised stop-time break. The conceptualization of tap dance as an Afro-Irish fusion, fueled by the competitive interplay of the challenge in a battle for virtuosity and authority, puts into focus issues of race and ethnicity; and inevitably takes on the painful history of race, racism, and race relations in America.

In addition, there are issues of class, in which tap was considered a popular entertainment and placed in the category of "low-art," and therefore not worthy of being presented on the concert stage. Moreover, the strange absence of women in early accounts of jigging competitions forces a consideration of gender in the evolution of tap dance which, for most of the twentieth century, was considered "a man's game.

By inference or direct statement, women were told they were "weak"; they lacked the physical strength needed to perform the rhythm-driven piston steps, multiple-wing steps, and flash and acrobatic steps that symbolized the male tap virtuoso's finish to a routine. Women were "nurturers," not competitors," and therefore did not engage in the tap challenge. A woman's role was not as a soloist but as a member of the chorus line. Racial and ethnic lines were distinctly drawn in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, but not so strictly drawn, geographically and culturally, between Irish and African Americans living in some neighborhoods.

Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue
Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue Follies of 1908: Reconstruction of a Broadway Revue

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