Flapper 103 – The Dance


One of the flappers’ favorite pastimes was dancing.  And what they danced to was not their parents’ music—they danced to jazz.

Jazz is a distinctly American music—simply put, a blending of African American and European American music that was born in America’s melting pot.  It is an urban music, and thrived in big cities like Chicago, New Orleans and New York.

Its birthplace was in the southern United States in the 1890’s with ragtime.  African American pianists performed in minstrel shows and vaudeville, and a style of music developed that was played solely on piano.  The sound was bouncy and the syncopated tempo was quick.

The sound quickly became infectious.  In 1910’s New Orleans, Dixieland jazz sprouted with abandon, where it became of great interest to white musicians as well.  Dance band and marching band instruments were used: horns, banjos, guitar, stand-up bass, drums, and piano.  Musicians like Jelly Roll Morton and Joe “King” Oliver began experimenting with tempo—it became more swing-like than syncopated.  Then they took it on the road.

By the 1920’s, speakeasies had become venues for jazz.  Known as “The Jazz Age”, hot jazz bands kept the people dancing.  Up till then, music had been classical or traditional folk music, and the dancing was done with partners, rather formally, like the waltz, quadrille and two-step.  With jazz, you could dance on your own.

Novelty Dances like the Charleston, the Black Bottom, the Shimmy became popular.  They usually went with a song of the same name.   Any dance that could be done solo could also be done with a partner.  The foxtrot, tango and Lindy Hop (the pre-cursor to West Coast Swing) were partner dances that also became extremely popular.

Two Flappers Dancing atop Chicago Hotel

crowd dancing

flappers dance

In April and May, Chifferobe presents its Flapper 101 – 104 Workshop Series.  On May 12th, ‘Flapper 103 – The Dance’ focuses on learning a few of the popular dances of the day from Adam Dau of Providence Swings!   Put your dancing shoes on and learn how to cut a rug!

It’s also Mother’s Day—bring your mom or bring your daughter and learn how to dance like a flapper!!

You’ll be the cat’s pajamas!


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