Cover image for Dancing many drums : excavations in African American dance
Dancing many drums : excavations in African American dance
DeFrantz, Thomas.
Publication Information:
Madison, Wis. : University of Wisconsin Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiii, 366 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
African American dance: a complex history / Thomas F. DeFrantz -- Christian conversion and the challenge of dance / P. Sterling Stuckey -- Dance and identity politics in American Negro vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters, 1900-1935 / Nadine A. George -- Awkward moves: dance lessons from the 1940s / Marya Annette McQuirter -- (Up)Staging the primitive: Pearl Primus and "the Negro problem" in American dance / Richard C. Green -- African dance in New York City / Marcia E. Heard and Mansa K. Mussa -- From "Messin' around" to "Funky Western civilization": the rise and fall of dance instruction songs / Sally Bances and John F. Szwed -- "Moves on top of blues": Dianne McIntyre's blues aesthetic / Veta Goler -- Kykunkor, or the witch woman: an African opera in America, 1934 / Maureen Needham -- Between two eras: "Norton and Margot" in the Afro-American entertainment world / Brenda Dixon Gottschild -- Katherine Dunham's Southland: protest in the face of repression / Constance Valis Hill -- The New York Negro Ballet in Great Britain / Dawn Lille Horwitz.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1624.7.A34 D38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Few will dispute the profound influence that African American music and movement has had in American and world culture. Dancing Many Drums explores that influence through a groundbreaking collection of essays on African American dance history, theory, and practice. In so doing, it reevaluates "black" and "African American" as both racial and dance categories. Abundantly illustrated, the volume includes images of a wide variety of dance forms and performers, from ring shouts, vaudeville, and social dances to professional dance companies and Hollywood movie dancing. Bringing together issues of race, gender, politics, history, and dance, Dancing Many Drums ranges widely, including discussions of dance instruction songs, the blues aesthetic, and Katherine Dunham's controversial ballet about lynching, Southland. In addition, there are two photo essays: the first on African dance in New York by noted dance photographer Mansa Mussa, and another on the 1934 "African opera," Kykunkor, or the Witch Woman. Book jacket.

Author Notes

Thomas F. DeFrantz is associate professor of music and theater arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to scholarly articles, he has written on dance for the Village Voice and Philadelphia Inquirer. He is a dancer and choreographer and directs the dance history program at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York City

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This first scholarly anthology treating the theory, practice, and history of African American dance joins a literature that includes Brenda Dixon Gottschild's Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance (CH, Apr'97) and Waltzing in the Dark (CH, Nov'00); Marshall Winslow Stearns's Jazz Dance (1971); Lynne Fauley Emery's Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970 (1972); Katrina Hazzard-Gordon's Jookin' (CH, Dec'90); Richard Long's The Black Tradition in American Dance (CH, Sep'90); and Jacqui Malone's Steppin' on the Blues (CH, Apr'97). DeFrantz (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) introduces the 12 selections, eight of which have never been published before, and challenges the reader to "rethink" the African American presence in dance theory, subject matter, and methodology in academic dance history. Through text and photos, the essays document dance as an agent of social change, offering new perspectives in dance history and questioning the existing hierarchy. Discussions of dance in Christian conversion, political and social identity, dance in African opera, dance-instruction songs, among other topics, reveal previously unknown facts and present little-known African American artists. This accessible title includes new and valuable information on African American dance for readers at all levels. C. T. Bond Goucher College

Table of Contents

Thomas F. DeFrantzP. Sterling StuckeyNadine A. GeorgeMarya Annette McQuirterRichard C. GreenMarcia E. Heard and Mansa K. MussaSally Banes and John F. SzwedVeta GolerMaureen NeedhamBrenda Dixon GottschildConstance Valis HillDawn Lille Horwitz
Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
African American Dance: A Complex Historyp. 3
Part 1. Theory
1. Christian Conversion and the Challenge of Dancep. 39
2. Dance and Identity Politics in American Negro Vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters, 1900-1935p. 59
3. Awkward Moves: Dance Lessons from the 1940sp. 81
4. (Up) Staging the Primitive: Pearl Primus and "the Negro Problem" in American Dancep. 105
Part 2. Practice
5. African Dance in New York Cityp. 143
6. From "Messin' Around" to "Funky Western Civilization": The Rise and Fall of Dance Instruction Songsp. 169
7. "Moves on Top of Blues": Dianne McIntyre's Blues Aestheticp. 205
Part 3. History
8. Kykunkor, or the Witch Woman: An African Opera in America, 1934p. 233
9. Between Two Eras: "Norton and Margot" in the Afro-American Entertainment Worldp. 267
10. Katherine Dunham's Southland: Protest in the Face of Repressionp. 289
11. The New York Negro Ballet in Great Britainp. 317
Contributorsp. 343
Indexp. 347