Of, by, and For the People: Dancing on the Left in the 1930s

Edited by Lynn Garafola

Preface by Barbara Melosh

two men with fists raisedThis pioneering volume sheds important new light on neglected aspects of dance in the United States during the 1930s and the early 1940s: the revolutionary dance movement that led to the founding of the New Dance Group, the rediscovery of Africa and the "black Atlantic" by African-American choreographers such as Asadata Dafora and Katherine Dunham, Communist Party pageants in New York, the closing of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, and the dance writing of left-wing critic Edna Ocko. The closing of the Savoy Ballroom, Harlem’s biggest and most famous dance hall, is but one telling example of progressive movements afoot. It was closed in 1943 by New York City authorities because it permitted interracial fraternization, suggesting that black urban dances like the Lindy Hop were bringing the races together even as political forces tried to keep them apart.

Prior to that event, modern dance was being developed not only by such mainstream artists as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Hanya Holm but by artists identified with the Left, artists such as Jane Dudley, Anna Sokolow, Sophie Maslow, Fe Alf, and Hemsley Winfield, artists who worked in the radical and bohemian culture of interwar New York and who used dance as a medium of political expression. The contributors to this volume – Ellen Graff, Stacey Prickett, John O. Perpener III, Barbara Stratyner, and Russell Gold – invoke that radical culture and that Left side of the world of dance. Writing as social historians, they demonstrate the value of attending to popular traditions of dance as well as to those at the center of the performing arts as elite culture.

Lynn Garafola is the author of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (1989; reprint, Da Capo Press, 1998), a co-editor of André Levinson on Dance: Writings from Paris in the Twenties (Wesleyan University Press, 1991), and the translator of The Diaries of Marius Petipa (A Capella Books, 1992).

Title: Of, By, and For the People
Editor: Lynn Garafola
Pub date: 1994
8.5 x 11 in., 120 pp., 16 illus.
ISBN 0-9653519-4-7

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