By Megan Pugh
utilizing the tales of tapper invoice "Bojangles" Robinson, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, ballet and Broadway choreographer Agnes de Mille, choreographer Paul Taylor, and Michael Jackson, Megan Pugh indicates how freedom—that nebulous, contested American ideal—emerges as a genre-defining aesthetic. In Pugh’s account, ballerinas mingle with slumming thrill-seekers, and hoedowns appear on elite opera residence levels. Steps invented by means of slaves on antebellum plantations captivate the British royalty and the Parisian avant-garde. Dances have been greater boundary crossers than their dancers, notwithstanding, and the problems of race and sophistication that hang-out way of life shadow American dance in addition. Deftly narrated, America Dancing demonstrates the centrality of dance in American paintings, existence, and id, taking us to watershed moments while the country labored out a feeling of itself via public movement.
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Additional resources for America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk
By 1900, he had made his way to New York. Legend has it that Robinson went to the big city itching to prove himself as a dancer. That meant heading to a perfor mance of Charles T. Dazey’s In Old Kentucky, which had been playing to packed houses off and on for seven years. It featured a love triangle with an innocent mountain girl, a moonshiner, and a debonair gentleman, as well as supporting roles for an endearing old Colonel and a faithful Negro. The story climaxed with a stirring horse race in Lexington.
At the close of Harlem Is Heaven, Robinson is reunited with his mother, who has come up from Richmond to see her boy make good. This never happened in Robinson’s own life—he didn’t even know his own mother. 32 Like so many, Robinson headed to Harlem, which became the capital of black American culture.
He thrived on small, subtle gestures and kept his limbs close to his body, playing up his character’s clumsiness and fear. 22 Robinson may have equaled Williams in fame and rivaled his mastery of jokes and pantomimes, but he soon became a very different sort of star: grace and command were central to his dancing, and they helped him reach the top of the pack. A decade after Williams began singing “Nobody,” Robinson was clearly somebody. He controlled his own body and instructed his educated feet.
America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk by Megan Pugh