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Dancing RevolutionBodies, Space, and Sound in American Cultural History$
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Christopher J. Smith

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042393

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042393.001.0001

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Blackface Transformations I

Blackface Transformations I

Modernism, Primitivism, and Race

(p.80) Chapter 6 Blackface Transformations I
Dancing Revolution

Christopher J. Smith

University of Illinois Press

This chapter investigates movement vocabularies associated with early-twentieth-century North American African American dance, particularly as specific performers adapted these exceptionally influential vocabularies in order to employ them for expressive and political purposes beyond the street: in the vaudeville theater, the Hollywood soundstage, and the mixed-race nightclub. This chapter suggests that these performers--Bill Robinson, Josephine Baker, and the Marx Brothers--possessed a sophisticated understanding of the transgressive power of African American street dance and deployed those movement vocabularies with intentional political effect in new, mass-market media. Methodology is drawn especially from film and drama theory, kinesics, and iconography.

Keywords:   twentieth century, African American, Bill Robinson, Josephine Baker, Marx Brothers, theatre, film, primitivism, blackface

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