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Jazz Dance: The Story Of American Vernacular Dance Paperback – March 22, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 508 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 2nd edition (March 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306805537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306805530
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #640,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The late Marshall Stearns was author of The Story of Jazz, and was the founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and Institute of Jazz Studies. He was also a professor of English at Hunger College in New York and a medieval literature scholar. He died in 1966 while completing his book Jazz Dance co-authored by his wife Jean. Jean Stearns, is an authority on jazz and assisted her late husband Marshall in researching and writing Jazz Dance.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frank Cullen on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
There is no other dance book on the market (and thank heavens that this one has remained available since it was first published in 1968) that is as useful, delightful to read or as authoratative as Marshall & Jean Stearn's "Jazz Dance". Indeed, it is, in my opinion, one of the best books ever written about any facet of show business.

Vernacular dance in 20th century America wasn't represented or devised solely by a handful of the best remembered: Vernon & Irene Castle, Bill Robinson, Fred & Ginger, Eleanor Powell, Hal Le Roy, the Nicholas Brothers, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Donald O'Connor and Bob Fosse.

From the age of variety saloons and minstrelsy through a century of vaudeville and nightclubs, there were hundreds of dancers, black and white, female and male, who contributed to the development of American vernacular (or jazz) dance. Hoofers invented, borrowed, stole and adapted rhythm steps, jumps, slides, contortions and even style from each other---and American dance became richer for their efforts.

Marshall Stearns understood that. Instead of choosing to write about the best known dancers of his day, the ones blessed by luck, Stearns took on the nearly impossible task of interviewing every dancer of ability he could locate. Some like King Rastus Brown, Ginger Wiggins and Groundhog were remarkable talents known only by a very few--most of whom were other dancers who held them in high esteem. Others like John Bubbles, Ida Forsythe, James Barton, Pete Nugent, Eddie Rector, Alice Whitman, Willie Covan and Harlan Dixon were peerless dancers of their day but forgotten despite years of stardom. Mr. Stearns brought more than a hundred fine hoofers to tell their stories to readers and dance enthusiasts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hugh R. Dempster on June 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
I second everything Frank Cullen says about this book. I first read it over thirty years ago, acquiring my own copy some years later. Not only is it a great book on American show business,it makes great reading for anyone interested in all facets of New World music and dance culture. I frequently reccomend this book to fans of American music in general, be it jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll, country, Latin etc. etc. After reading the Stearns' wonderful book, one sees that, no matter how well-versed in the musical lore of the Americas one is, it is all a bit two-dimensional without the perspective offered by 'Jazz Dance'.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
Want to know what the "buck and wing" looks like? The "black bottom," "shorty george," "eagle rock" or "Jersey bounce"? Well, if you can read Labanotation, you can find out from the last pages of this book. Otherwise, you'll just have to settle for a bunch of dance history and anecdotes strung together by the Stearns, who interviewed as many American jazz dancers as they could still find alive.
It's fascinating stuff, though. The text does give some limited descriptions, and opening the book to a random page reveals both " . . .Crawley danced while he played clarinet, juggling the pieces as he dismantled it" and "As performed by Little Egypt at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, where it first received national attention as the Hootchy-Kootchy, the Shake dance was not particularly rhythmic."
As an actual history of American dance, for me this book lacks coherence. But I did learn about ways in which African dance influenced American, see the names of quite a lot of performers, steps, and performance venues, and learn to play the "Buck Dancer's Lament" on the piano. If you want something you can read a page of and then put down until later, this will fill the bill.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dear reader, if I believe what Frankie Manning said (from a friend of mine), this book has a bit of exageration concerning the cotton club.the violence was not that bad at the time. Saying that, it is a great book to have a almost accurate view of the history of dance in America. I am myself a swing teacher, dancer and choreographer for over 30 years and I do appreciate good books like this one, because it is one thing to perform a style of dance, but it is another to understand where it comes from. Bravo!
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