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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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English style: foreign culture, race and the Anglicisation of popular dance

English style: foreign culture, race and the Anglicisation of popular dance

Chapter:
(p.142) 5 English style: foreign culture, race and the Anglicisation of popular dance
Source:
Dancing in the English Style
Author(s):

Allison Abra

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781784994334.003.0006

This chapter examines the creation and commodification of national identity within popular dance. The discussion focuses on the efforts of the dance profession to standardise the steps of the English style, and demonstrates that there was far more invested in that process than simply establishing a formal set of steps and figures. Within the context of broader fears about Americanisation, dance professionals sought to transform foreign dances like the foxtrot and tango in a way that made them more suitable to the national character or temperament. This vision of the nation was explicitly articulated in opposition to racialised American and stereotypically Latin others, and emphasised English virtues like reserve and refinement. With its specific syllabus of standard steps and figures, the English style also became a marketable commodity which was sold at home as well as abroad. Yet the chapter shows that the profession’s efforts to craft a national dancing style were greeted with a mixed response from the British dancing public. Instead, they retained a strong interest in foreign dances like the rumba and truckin’, especially as they began to view the English style technique as stagnant and excessively regimented by the 1930s.

Keywords:   Anglicisation, English style, Americanisation, National identity, Race, Commodification, Rumba, Truckin

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