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Dancing in the English StyleConsumption, Americanisation and National Identity in Britain, 1918-50$
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Allison Abra

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994334

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994334.001.0001

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Who makes new dances? The dance profession and the evolution of style

Who makes new dances? The dance profession and the evolution of style

(p.44) 2 Who makes new dances? The dance profession and the evolution of style
Dancing in the English Style

Allison Abra

Manchester University Press

This chapter describes the standardisation of the English style of ballroom dance and the professionalisation of the dance community, showing that these processes were inextricably connected. The catalyst to the dance profession’s consolidation was a series of conferences convened in the 1920s by prominent teachers who sought to standardise the steps of new ballroom dances arriving in Britain from the United States and continental Europe. From these events emerged the rudimentary English style, which the profession then passed on to the dancing public via dancing schools, exhibition dancing, dance competitions and print culture. However, the chapter argues that the success – and even the steps and figures – of a dance were not determined entirely by this top-down process. Not only did a significant segment of the dancing public eschew instruction, and remain largely oblivious to professional activities, but the two groups were not always aligned in their dancing preferences. The result was that questions about which dances would be danced in Britain, how they would be performed, and what the gradually evolving national style would look like, were continually negotiated between producers and consumers of popular dance.

Keywords:   Professionalisation, Standardisation, English style, Ballroom dance, Exhibitions, Competitions, Foxtrot, Tango, Charleston

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