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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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The ‘infernal jitterbug’ and the transformation of popular dance

The ‘infernal jitterbug’ and the transformation of popular dance

(p.241) 8 The ‘infernal jitterbug’ and the transformation of popular dance
Dancing in the English Style

Allison Abra

Manchester University Press

This chapter provides a case study of the jitterbug, an American import which became the great dance sensation of the Second World War. Questions about Americananisation took on a new valence in wartime, owing to the physical presence in Britain of large numbers of American GIs. The dance profession and dance hall industry thus shifted tactics with respect to American culture, choosing to embrace the jitterbug – in a toned down Anglicised form. However, as part of ongoing negotiations with producers, the dancing public expressed greater interest in the ‘authentic’, American jitterbug than the Anglicised versions presented to them by the profession and industry, in ways that reflected contemporary deliberations over racial difference. As a dance, the jitterbug also heralded a critical shift away from modern ballroom dancing as the nation’s favoured style.

Keywords:   Jitterbug, Race, Anglicisation, Americanisation, Modernity, War

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