Freshwater Events Presents: Hit Music from the 1920's Big Band Era
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Prohibition of alcohol began in 1920, this lead to an underground market for much sought after drinks and the creation of places like speakeasies. Speakeasies started out small, but as the Roaring Twenties came into its prime, speakeasies followed and expanded into clubs that featured musicians and dancers.
Of course Speakeasies weren't the only places that offered a party during the Jazz Age, there were private clubs, dance clubs, jazz clubs, and roadhouses. All were places where people could gather, listen to new music, and try out the latest dance crazes together. Dancing was a large part of popular culture and music during this decade and there were a number of iconic dances to emerge from these scenes.
Dance music laid the foundation for what would become classic pop standards. The "Charleston," the "Black Bottom," the "Shimmy," the "Foxtrot," and the "Lindy Hop" were some of the most popular dances of the time. Dance competitions were popular at the time and would feature scores of girls seeing who could dance the best Charleston for the longest.
The popularity of dance music also influenced the fashions of the decade with looser fitting clothing like "Flapper" style dresses for women, and more casual sportswear for men becoming widespread. While these types of clothing were not necessarily created with dancing in mind, their easy fit and styles made them ideal for the flamboyant and active dancing that dominated the decade.
While ballroom dancing still resonated with older and more conservative men and women, the new dance crazes appealed to the younger generation who valued extreme sports, frivolity, and looser morals. In the period between the Wars, many young Americans were chastised by their elders for violations against decency, including using slang, performing “low-class” dances, and enjoying syncopated music with African American influences. During the Roaring Twenties young Americans responded to this criticism by broadening all of these “violations,” with more outrageous slang, jazzier music and dance, shorter and flimsier dresses and even shorter hair in reaction against these social rules of modesty and gender. There was no formal training for these new dances; the various steps, movements, and styles were informally “picked up” by party goers who would travel from one club to the next. It was, thus, in dance halls across the country in the 1920s that free form social dancing emerged.
Waltz: A derivative left over from previous ballroom styles of the early twentieth century, the waltz became intertwined with the Jazz Age through flowing footwork and dramatic facial expressions. This style of dance was characterized by small, double steps and the dance was fairly contained and restrained. Generally, it did not display the sense of swooping and the broad motion associated with modern, competition ballroom Waltz, or the high-speed, rapid rotation of the Viennese Waltz.
Fox Trot: The Fox Trot dance arose in the 1910s and was known as the “One Step.” With the advent of World War I, it was quickly forgotten but reappeared again in the 1920s as the “Fox Trot.” The foxtrot dance is known for its smoothness, characterized by long, continuous flowing movements across the dance floor. This dance is commonly accompanied with big band music and is stylistically similar to the Waltz, although the rhythm is in four-quarter instead of a three-quarter time signature.
The Charleston: This dance emerged in the 1920s when it accompanied James P. Johnson’s song “The Charleston” in the 1923 Broadway musical Runnin’ Wild. The variety of Charleston variations exploded with the advent of Charleston contests, for both solo dancers and couples across the world. Known for its complex footwork, the dance requires stepping backwards and then forwards, all the while kicking one’s legs out to the side. The second step is to move forwards and kick a front leg out, followed by moving backwards and kicking a leg back. The final step is to put both hands on both knees and move side-to-side by moving the knees apart and then together.