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Sariah Aronsohn

Dance History, DANCE 460


November 15, 2016
Unit 11: Dance in Early America
Over the past hundreds and thousands of years, Europe had dominated the dance world.
But as America established itself as a power force to be reckoned with, dance became more
prevalent. Europeans brought ballet and cultural dancing with them and in most cases continued
the traditions.
Puritans, however, did not approve of dance in their colonial societies because they said
that the Bible, which condemned dancing when it led to drinking and lustful desires, was explicit
in saying that dance was never okay. But they had all previously come from English cultures
where poetry, music, theatre, and dancing were all a part of the education system for most
people. The Puritans just regarded these things as private matters that were only shared within
the home and and not publicly talked about. In the more liberal communities, the people were
able to participate in country dances, but they were not allowed to couple up. These dances were
not meant for showing-off or being in the spotlight but more for the community to come together
and experience laughter and joy through bodily movement.
It is no secret that slaves were brought to America in the nineteenth century, and as they
came they needed an outlet for their feelings because they were all depressed working on
plantations. They created stories and sang and danced at night after a long hard day of work. The
slaves were sometimes forced into the center of street squares to do the dances of their ancestors.
They actually enjoyed these, but it probably wasnt that fun considering that the white people
were probably making fun of them the whole time. Juba became a very common named for black
entertainers. William Henry Lane was a very famous performer with the stage name Juba. The

Juba was unlike anything in America at this time. They had specific steps and characters and
very fun, outlandish impersonations. African Americans still found it hard to enjoy being on the
stage because there were so many awful stereotypes about blacks and white people were still
constantly making fun of them.
All in all, I learned a lot about the early history of America and the dance that took place
during this time period. I cant believe that the Puritan culture looked down upon dance. I could
not imagine living in a culture where publicly dancing was not allowed, because I will bust a
move anytime, and anywhere! I also am so grateful that I live in an era where African
Americans are seen as equal members of society. With Misty Copeland just recently becoming
the first black principal ballerina for American Ballet Theatre, I am so glad that our country has
moved away from the mockery and hateful things of our past. I think that it would be really hard
to find joy as a slave in those days, so I am really glad that they were able to find joy in singing
and dancing together.