What would ritualizing life through dance look like?
How could you find yourself within African American vernacular dances? How would this and “reflecting life and vitality” change your current approach to blues idiom dancing?
Where there is footage available to view, I’d love for us to get a look at some of the dances Jacqui Malone mentions in this book. I’d like to start with one that maybe some of you haven’t seen before, the Buzzard Lope. Malone states that there are six characteristics that manifest in African American vernacular dance: “rhythm, improvisation, control, angularity, asymmetry, and dynamism” (32). How do you see those reflected in this dance?
Buck Dancing started out as a black dance but became a regional dance; people of many ethnicities dance it. What do you find interesting about this dance and who dances it? Can we draw any parallels into what dances we choose to learn in our own community and why?
In place of an official question for Chapter 4, I’d like to offer people some additional information on Minstrel Shows and Medicine Shows. Today’s post will focus on the Minstrel Shows. It is the segment about blacks and vaudeville from a PBS documentary on vaudeville. It should blend nicely into the reading for this coming week. Feel free to discuss the information contained in this clip, and enjoy!
What do you make of the photos at the end of Chapter 5? Do they capture anything particular about the time period Malone is telling us about? And for that matter, what can photos tell us about this time period that other mediums, such as film or text, can’t?
The end of chapter six focuses heavily on the important inspiration musicians got from knowing how to dance and having dancers dance to their music. Malone quotes Jimmy Rushing, saying, “The blues, the singer, the band, and the dancers formed the vital whole of jazz as an institutional form, and even today neither part is quite complete without the rest” (105). How do you see this as being true (or false) with the live bands we dance to in our communities? Can we have this experience Malone describes in any form with DJ’d music? Why or why not?
Today’s question encompasses chapters 8 and 9, which deal specifically with marching bands and the FAMU Marching 100. The FAMU Marching 100 still actively perform, they still include black vernacular dance in their routines, and they are still one of the most sought after bands around the world. I don’t think I need to restate what Malone has already so thoroughly unfolded to us in the chapters. Instead, what do you think of what they’re doing here (you can watch about five minutes or so for a good feel for what they do)? What good do you see coming from this type of performance?
In our second-to-last chapter for this book club reading, I’d like to highlight the rich tradition of the New Orleans Second Line in the funeral procession rituals Malone discusses at length. Attached is a playlist of many recorded examples of the parades, but I’ve highlighted the filmed second line for Juanita Brooks’ funeral. What do you find important about this tradition? How does it keep the spirit of black vernacular dance not only alive, but visible to a larger community?
In the last chapter of the book, Malone discusses the intense and complex rhythms of stepping. Do we utilize such complex rhythm in the blues idiom dances we perform? If so, how do we utilize complex rhythms?