Black Dancing Body: A Geography from Coon to Cool

Overview

Watching contemporary American dance is a unique and electrifying experience. Swept along with the dancers, one wonders how the unorthodox movement and unexpected tempo came about. To provide at least one answer to this question, Brenda Dixon Gottschild charts a "geography" that maps a unique, yet startlingly ubiquitous, region of influence in the history of American dance: the black dancing body. The author invites the reader on a journey of sorts and says, "The black dancing body (a fiction based on reality, a ...
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Overview

Watching contemporary American dance is a unique and electrifying experience. Swept along with the dancers, one wonders how the unorthodox movement and unexpected tempo came about. To provide at least one answer to this question, Brenda Dixon Gottschild charts a "geography" that maps a unique, yet startlingly ubiquitous, region of influence in the history of American dance: the black dancing body. The author invites the reader on a journey of sorts and says, "The black dancing body (a fiction based on reality, a fact based upon illusion) has infiltrated and informed the shapes and changes of the American dancing body." Using interviews with black, white, and brown dance practitioners as well as performance analysis and personal recollections of her own life in the world of dance, Brenda Dixon Gottschild charts the endeavors, ordeals, and triumphs of "black" dance and dancers by exposing perceptions, images, and assumptions, past and present. In her journey to discover the contours and importance of the black dancing body, the author spoke to some of the greatest dancers and choreographers of our time - Fernando Bujones, Trisha Brown, Garth Fagan, Bill T. Jones, Ralph Lemon, Meredith Monk, Merián Soto, Doug Elkins, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and a cadre of their esteemed colleagues. The "embattled territories" of the black dancing body are probed chapter by chapter: feet, buttocks, hair, skin color. The whole of the black dancing body is "re-membered" in the final chapters on soul and spirit. The Black Dancing Body is a key to the ineffable rhythms and movement of dance in America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"My topic is hot: Race remains dangerous territory, and talking race through the black dancing body is tricky," notes Temple University dance professor Gottschild (Waltzing in the Dark) at the beginning of her exploration of "Africanist presences in performance." Gottschild's exploration of the geography of the black dancing body begins with her own story (as a young dancer in the late 1950s, she recalls, her long-legged, slim-hipped body "got me in trouble" when more "feminine" bodies were in fashion). The author would also audition for Broadway shows, yet knew African-Americans rarely made the cut. This very personal exploration ranges from the question of what black dance is, to the role and perceptions of various body parts, from feet to hair. Along the way, the author interviews 24 leading dancers and choreographers (not all African-American), including Trisha Brown, Bill T. Jones, Shelley Washington and Ralph Lemon, representing a variety of dance eras, idioms and traditions. Anyone interested in dance and in African-American culture will find much to ponder here. (Oct. 6) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her third study of Africanist elements in dance (after Waltzing in the Dark and Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance), Gottschild presents her ideas on perceptions and stereotypes of the "black dancing body." She writes, "I don't believe there is such a phenomenon as black and white dance or even a black or white dancing body .[Yet] I cannot ignore or escape these terms. My strategy for going beyond them is to move through them." Such thoughts are interwoven with the views of 24 interviewees, including choreographers Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown, and Meredith Monk, in chapters titled "Feet," "Soul/Spirit," "Skin/Hair," and even "Butt." While examining, for example, the dancing of Savion Glover, Josephine Baker, James Brown, and Urban Bush Women, the choreographers make interesting observations regarding their own bodies and career experiences. Gottschild also hopes to "deconstruct racial mythology and stereotypes." Aimed at academic dance and African American studies programs, this is an attempt to develop a theory about the changing black dance stereotype through history. Appropriate for academic collections.-Barbara Kundanis, Batavia P.L., IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312240479
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/6/2003
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 332
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

BRENDA DIXON GOTTSCHILD, author of Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance: Dance and Other Contexts and Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era, is Professor Emerita of Dance Studies at Temple University. She is a senior consultant/writer for Dance Magazine and performs with her husband, choreographer Hellmut Gottschild.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Pt. I Topography of Things to Come: Ruminations on Dancing in a Black Dancing Body
Latitude I 2
1 Black White Dance Dancers 12
2 The Physical Terrain 41
Position: Bujones/Zollar Interviews 82
Location: Who's There? 97
Pt. II Mapping the Territories
Latitude II 102
3 Feet 108
4 Butt 144
5 Skin/Hair 188
Location: To Be or Not... 219
Pt. III The Continent
Latitude III 222
6 Soul/Spirit 226
7 Blood Memories, Spirit Dances 259
Position: From Coon to Cool 281
Location: Horizon 300
App Dance Practitioners Mentioned in Order of Appearance in Text 302
Notes 305
Bibliography 312
Index 317
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2004

    Fantastic!!

    Gottschild truly outdid herself in this wonderful book about the black dancing body as well as the white dancing body. What I enjoy about this book most is that not only has she done an outstanding job of explaining the geography of the black dancing body, she also incorporates those of other ethnic backgrounds as a means of elaborating her viewpoint. I would REQUIRE ALL DANCERS regardless of ethnicity to read this book and learn something form it especially those of African descen.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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