Cover for SMITH, CHRISTOPHER: Dancing Revolution: Bodies, Space, and Sound in American Cultural History. Click for larger image

Dancing Revolution

Bodies, Space, and Sound in American Cultural History

Using dance as a political language to unite and resist

Throughout American history, patterns of political intent and impact have linked the wide range of dance movements performed in public places. Groups diverse in their cultural or political identities, or in both, long ago seized on street dancing, marches, open-air revival meetings, and theaters, as well as in dance halls and nightclubs, as a tool for contesting, constructing, or reinventing the social order.

Dancing Revolution presents richly diverse case studies to illuminate these patterns of movement and influence in movement and sound in the history of American public life. Christopher J. Smith spans centuries, geographies, and cultural identities as he delves into a wide range of historical moments. These include the God-intoxicated public demonstrations of Shakers and Ghost Dancers in the First and Second Great Awakenings; creolized antebellum dance in cities from New Orleans to Bristol; the modernism and racial integration that imbued twentieth-century African American popular dance; the revolutionary connotations behind images of dance from Josephine Baker to the Marx Brothers; and public movement's contributions to hip hop, antihegemonic protest, and other contemporary transgressive communitiesí physical expressions of dissent and solidarity.

Multidisciplinary and wide-ranging, Dancing Revolution examines how Americans turned the rhythms of history into the movement behind the movements.

"A very ambitious and impressive study. The breadth and scope of the book are remarkable. It is highly engaging and readable and expands our understanding of the potential of dance (and music/sound) to serve as a potent force for social engagement."--Julie Malnig, editor of Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader

Publication of this book was supported by a grant from the H. Earle Johnson Fund of the Society for American Music.


Christopher J. Smith is a professor, chair of musicology, and founding director of the Vernacular Music Center at the Texas Tech University School of Music. He is the author of the award-winning book The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy.

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