Dancetime Publications’ Newest Film Release: Where We Danced & 3 Reasons Why You Should Check It Out

wwdbrianskillen_image2

This winter, we are releasing our latest film, Where We Danced, directed by Brian “Lucky” Skillen and produced by 1881 Films. The project was originally released by the production company in 2011 and and Dancetime Publications has joined in on distributing the film, the first in its trilogy!

Ahh, American Social Dance. Ever heard of the Lindy Hop? That social dance consisting of both eight and six count steps with footwork borrowed from the Charleston and Tap dance and rooted in African Aesthetic? That dance, danced to that West African and European influenced American art form we call, Jazz?

You know that really popular set of steps that took the nation by storm in the early 20th century?

Still doesn’t ring a bell? Think Ella Fitzgerald, big band musical arrangements, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chick Webb, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman and someone who danced to it all, Frankie Manning. Check out this clip featuring Mr. Manning below:

Frankie Manning for instance, is by far the most famous Lindy Hopper who ever lived and up until 94 years old he taught, performed and lectured about the Lindy Hop both nationally and internationally. The robust, improvisational dance done to swing-era jazz music, reflecting self expression and getting its name from pilot, Charles Lindberg’s “hop” over the Atlantic, the Lindy Hop is known to have begun in the late 1920s and early 1930s in Harlem, New York. Rooted in social milestones and conditions that include segregation, Jim Crow, Prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II, the Lindy Hop is one of the most popular social dances of that era.

Though the most popular, it is only yet a single thread of the web of dances and movements connecting and interconnecting bodies, physical voices, the African Aesthetic, Black experience and various communities across towns and cities throughout the US, and today throughout the globe. From the Big Apple to the Lindy Hop to the Jitterbug and others, these dances’ roots run deep.

via GIPHY

Where We Danced explores roots of American social dance in great depth and takes us on a journey to get a sense of where it all began. There are many reasons you should check out the film. Here are three serious and really good ones you might want to consider:

1. The documentary film Where We Dance, explores dance and movement social-culture in the context of history. It is an historical account and historical accounts are vital to understanding who we were yesterday, who we are today and who we have the potential to be tomorrow.

The history of American Social Dance goes back hundreds of years and as Head of Product of Dancetime Publications, someone passionate about history and dance, I am ecstatic to announce the new film our company is distributing! Where We Danced – The Story of American Social Dance, the first in its trilogy that chronicles the evolution of social dance in America. This first film tells the story of America’s dance through the lives of dancers who shaped the art form as well as the places they lived and danced.

Not only are the early beginnings of American social dance explored through accounting life on plantations and social and cultural interactions during slavery between West Africans and Western Europeans who influenced one another, the film explores how racism, social customs and politics of the time shaped and formed social dances throughout America’s history and their impact on them today.

2. The film deeply explores how racism and social customs influenced dance and movement, shaping it, forming and molding it.

Beginning at America’s first indigenous social dance, the Cakewalk, born out of a collision between West African and Western European cultures, viewers are brought on an historical journey as the film chronicles American social dance from then through to 1930s’ Harlem. This journey illustrates how these dances were shaped by society and how society shaped them. It illustrates how popular culture in America and around the world was influenced by dance, such as fashion and notions about sexualty giving the youth of the 20th century a voice to define itself from the rigidness of the Victorian Era. Further illustrated is how dance gave voice to African-Americans where for them, dance had always been a means of expression still present in their lives in Africa long before they set foot on Americas’ soils, but was now an outward force of expression executed by now free individuals and an expression curious to others and quite magnetic.

The film takes a very interesting look into the popularization of dances done first by Africans and then African Americans in America. Exploring how racism and public opinion of the negro and the formerly enslaved influenced mainstream perspectives – mostly white opinion – about African American vernacular dance, the transformation of steps and movement when adapted and presented by white dancers is illuminated. From the Castles – Vernon and Irene Castle and later Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the transformation and evolution of movement is examined. As director of the film, Skillen shares in an interview on the work,

“When the dances become more white, they get smoothed out and more regulated. The Castles were fascinating,” he says. “The band director was [African American] and I read that they learned a lot of their dance steps from him… They were revolutionary”.

In others words, as many whites adapted the dances, some would change them. They modified them and influenced them with their own cultural and social norms and because then the dances were more in line with other aspects of culture of many whites – dress, gesture, approach to the movement, when and where it was done for example, the dances were more accepted by mainstream. For these dances and types of steps to be more widely embodied, the movements of Africans and African Americans – the formerly enslaved, currently segregated and discriminated against, the American second class and considered 3/5th a human being during slavery, had to be transformed by white hands, feet and legs in order to be embraced and more widely accepted across racial lines.

3. Storytelling in a digital age at its best. Where We Danced is a film, the first of a trilogy that through chronicling history, exhibits the power of documentation of dance. Exhibits the power of archiving and preservation of culture through documenting dance, dance stories and dance history on film and digital platforms.  

The self-titled article, Where We Dance published on UK’s Dancing Times – Incorporating Dance Today, illustrates the work and storytelling of director and blues dancer, Brian “Lucky” Skillen. Writer, Nicola Rayner interviews Skillen, discussing one of the greatest dancers of Lindy Hop — Frankie Manning, how the project began, the “words of wisdom” and who exactly Irene Castle and her husband Vernon were and their influence on the evolution of American social dance.

To learn more about our new film and the director and blues dancer, Brian “Lucky” Skillen, check out Where We Danced  on Dancing Times and take a look at a preview of the film on our site! 

Sources: Wisegeek, The Lindy Hop Project, Lindy Hop Moves, and Central Home

 

SHARE ON
About Yauri Dalencour

Yauri is a professional dancer, dance archivist and educator. She has run an arts education consultancy she founded almost ten years ago and is now head of product and brand ambassador at Dancetime Publications. Yauri’s forte as a dance journalist is writing short insightful and reflective posts as well as featured articles featuring guests and experts.

Share Your Thoughts & Comments

Your entered name will be displayed with your comment but your email will remain private and not be displayed.

*