It is the third decade of the twentieth century. Port of Charleston, USA. Dockworkers in leisure classes play and sing, bringing a bit of cheerfulness into stressful lives. A man named James Johnson heard their song. The history of music and jazz would have been much different if had he been of other professions.
The 1920s were a turning point in almost every sphere of life. After the First World War ended, many attitudes, opinions, worldviews changed. New lifestyles were created, completely unthinkable only five years earlier. Among the revolutionaries were the so-called “The Flappers.”
Women of that age, due to the war, were forced to take on roles in society that did not belong to them before. The men went to the front and stayed there for an unforeseen long time; lest the country goes bankrupt, and the military across the ocean runs out of food, jobs in factories were taken over by women, leaving the traditional roles of mothers and housewives. In fact, not leaving, but learning to balance, which they still do today. Seeing what they were capable of, they decided not to return to the old social principles. They could not even return – some of the best opportunities for marriage came back from Europe “on the shield,” so ladies had to find ways to support themselves.
When they started earning their pennies on their own, women also discovered how nice it was to distribute their income on their own. Generations of their grandparents were shocked to see their female offspring with cigarettes between their fingers. But the descendants did not move. On the contrary, no less than at the time of Prohibition, ladies inclined to the new rules began drinking. The scene didn’t appeal to people who watched all that in amazement. But the show must go on.
We mentioned James in the introductory part; he was a very famous and respected composer and pianist of his time. His inspiration for writing was a tune heard on the streets of Charleston. The song “The Charleston” was written for the musical Runnin ‘Wild. And the crowd went wild!
Music has existed since before, don’t be fooled by this short biography of a raucous dance style from the early 20th century. According to some sources, it originated in the social circles of African-Americans from one of the islands near the city of Charleston. Dance also existed. Runnin’ Wild only popularized it.
Let’s go back to the Flappers. The girls, now independent and self-conscious, have enthusiastically embraced new dance and new music. Their clothes, insanely challenging for that time, matched perfectly with the quick, energetic steps, which made the already short skirts flutter even more. They were an avant-garde like free porn games, or online sex games are today. Since 1923, when Runnin’ Wild premiered, Charleston’s popularity has grown steadily, peaking in late 1926 and 1927.
Flappers displayed their new nature with clothes as much as with their life decisions. Dresses lost their sleeves, and it was no longer considered shameful to show hands. They got rid of the corset at the same speed as social strata; their clothes were slick, their waists lowered to their hips. The skirts were down to the knees, but with shims that also revealed thighs when they played, so it was almost that watching them was like enjoying free sex games.
Gradually revealing their sexuality, Charleston women increasingly loved this dance that allowed them to express themselves and have fun. One of the most famous ladies who popularized Charleston was Josephine Baker, who still deserves a place on the list of the best improvisers in the dance world ever.
And then, in 1929, earning their bread ceased to be an expression of rebellion against social principles and became a matter of existential importance. The Great Depression wiped the smiles off many faces, and the Flappers gradually began to disappear.
Charleston, however, is not forgotten. Like many other cultural assets of the ’20s, it has remained in people’s memories. Although not too popular, especially outside the US, it lives on as part of the Lindy hop dance family.
Charleston is classified as a jazz swing dance. It dances at a swift pace, is dynamic, and is mostly based on improvisation. It can be danced solo or in pairs (just in case you were wondering if there was at least one man in the text or if the war had mowed everything down).
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