History in the Pages, pt. 1

Looking for reliable sources on the history of vernacular jazz dance can sometimes be a tough process. Thankfully the ability to easily order books online has made it quite a bit easier to find these less-than-common books.

Ambassador of Lindy HopThe first book I recommend for anyone looking to learn more about the history of the dance is Frankie Mannings autobiography, Ambassador of Lindy Hop, released earlier this year. While it may not be a comprehensive look at the development of jazz dance as a whole, it is the most inviting to the casual reader. Frankie Manning is an innovator and pioneer in the lindy hop community and has helped return the dance from a lost art to the strong and growing community it is now. It has a colloquial ease; full of anecdotes and memories of ballrooms and bands from the jazz era that make it hard to put down. It was co-authored by Cynthia Millman and there are small sidebars throughout the book with historical snippets on locations and various dances.

Jazz DanceFor a more historical perspective on the development of vernacular jazz dance Marshall Stearns Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance is a good choice. It lays out the history of the dance in a slightly haphazard manner from buck dancing and minstrel shows to the dance crazes of the twenties including charleston, black bottom, turkey trot and moves into the development of lindy hop and tap. It is more academic in nature than Frankie Manning’s book including Laban movement notation on how to perform various steps. There is also a companion book on the history of Jazz music by Marshall Stearns which follows a similar method in examining the development of jazz as a musical tradition.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You ought to talk with Rebbecca Strickland, she can probably point you toward some other fabulous resources.

  2. Hey there,
    I’m taking classes in MTL at Cat’s with Alain and Ann right now, and I stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago through a link on Alain’s.

    I’ve only been dancing a couple of months and I’ve been having some difficulty navigating the world of Swing/Jazz dancing, with its “celebrities”, crazy-fragmented dance scenes and complex history, but I’ve been thoroughly helped out by your interesting and often thought-provoking posts. Kudos!

    And I’ve been hearing a lot about the Frankie Manning biography…think I’ll go pick it up. He seems really charming and down-to-Earth in the Youtube interviews I see, but they’re never long enough for my tastes…

  3. I also have a number of other sources, this was just a primer for people who read the blog and wanted to find some printed sources. Thanks though, I’ll contact her.

  4. Frankie’s biography is a wonderful piece, also, if you ever get the chance go to NYC check out some of the more in-depth interviews with him at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center.

    Thanks Marc.


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