Charleston (dance)

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The Charleston is a dance named for the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called The Charleston by composer/pianist James P. Johnson which originated in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild[1] and became one of the most popular hits of the decade. Runnin' Wild ran from 29 October 1923 through 28 June 1924.[1] The peak year for the Charleston as a dance by the public was mid 1926 to 1927.



Developed in African-American communities in the United States, the Charleston became a popular dance craze in the wider international community during the 1920s. Despite its origins, the Charleston is most frequently associated with white flappers and the speakeasy. Here, these young women would dance alone or together as a way of mocking the "drys," or citizens who supported the Prohibition amendment, as the Charleston was then considered quite immoral and provocative.

While the Charleston as a dance probably came from the "star" or challenge dances that were all part of the Black American dance called Juba, the particular sequence of steps which appeared in Runnin' Wild were probably newly devised for popular appeal.[2] "At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. [This could well be the Jay-Bird.] When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap." Further changes were undoubtedly made before the dance was put on stage.[3] In the words of Harold Courlander, while the Charleston had some characteristics of traditional Negro dance, it "was a synthetic creation, a newly-devised conglomerate tailored for wide spread popular appeal. Although the step known as "Jay-Bird", and other specific movement sequences are of Afro-American origin, no record of the Charleston being performed on the plantation has been discovered[2]

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