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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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Doing the Lambeth Walk: novelty dances and the commodification of the nation

Doing the Lambeth Walk: novelty dances and the commodification of the nation

(p.178) 6 Doing the Lambeth Walk: novelty dances and the commodification of the nation
Dancing in the English Style

Allison Abra

Manchester University Press

This chapter uses as a case study a series of novelty dances produced by the Mecca dance hall chain starting in 1938: the Lambeth Walk, the Chestnut Tree, the Park Parade, the Handsome Territorial, and Knees Up, Mother Brown. These were deliberately simply sequence dances, which Mecca director C.L. Heimann hoped would bring more patrons into his company’s dance halls, particularly those who were untutored in ballroom dancing. While the marketing campaign for the dances stressed their ease and accessibility, another major focus was on the dances’ British origin and character, and the nation was explicitly commodified to sell the new dances. The first Mecca novelty dance, the Lambeth Walk, was a staggering success, both at home and abroad, and was embraced by the dancing public for its connections to British culture. However, the chapter shows that the other four Mecca novelty dances which followed the Lambeth Walk met with a mixed response, and argues that their success or failure was largely owing to their quality as dances rather than their national origins.

Keywords:   Lambeth Walk, National identity, Novelty dance, Mecca, Heimann, Americanisation, Commodification

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