Call for papers for edited collection: Dancing the Blues


Due June 10, 2018

Submissions are sought for an interdisciplinary edited essay collection: Dancing the Blues: An Exploration of Blues Music and Movement.  

James Weldon Johnson, in his 1922 preface to The Book of American Negro Poetry, stated that black people in the United States were the creators “of the only things artistic that have yet sprung from American soil and been universally acknowledged as distinctive American products.” African American spirituals, the blues, ragtime, stories, and dances such as the Cakewalk and Eagle Rock are primarily on Johnson’s list of African American artistic achievement. Thus, Johnson and many other scholars in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have stressed that what might be considered a national, or uniquely American culture needs to be reconsidered as specific to African American culture, which has then gone on to influence a variety of cultures and art forms in the United States.

It is worthwhile, then, to revisit the blues as a specific art form with staying power and influence. The various genres influenced by blues in particular spawned many dances as they evolved: the Charleston, Lindy Hop, Mashed Potato, Monkey, Jive, and Twist, to name a few. Yet, the continued growth and popularity of blues music throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first has been overlooked. Moreover, blues idiom dances—i.e., the dances done to blues music today and in the past—have received little scholarly scrutiny despite their influence on other well-studied dance forms such as swing dance and jazz. Similarly, the increasing visibility and popularity of blues dancing in recent decades has gone without comment from scholars or the popular press. This innovative and interdisciplinary edited collection will explore the richly diverse intersections and interconnections of blues music and dancing bodies, utilizing multiple mediums and methodological approaches: literary, theatrical, social, private and public, individual and communal.

While the topic of black vernacular dances and jazz music has received attention from sociologists, anthropologists, and musicologists, as well as from dance scholars, this book will contribute to and expand these discussions by considering not only the history of blues idiom dances but also how those dances have found their way into a variety of artistic mediums and social situations. Thus, this book could speak not just to dance scholars and musicologists, but to scholars in cultural studies, movement studies, gender studies, social and cultural history, and many other areas of scholarship.

Topics for chapters can include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Technical features of blues idiom dances
  • Music-dance relations
  • Social dance and discourse
  • Blues social dance instruction
  • History of blues music and dance
  • Blues and dance in literature, on stage, and in artistic representations
  • Interviews with dancers, instructors, and musicians
  • Blues, dance, and gender
  • Blues, dance, race, and sexuality
  • Space/place/location
  • Genre/era
  • Blues music, dance and cultural identity

We hope to include chapters by authors from a variety of disciplines in an effort to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the study of blues and blues idiom dances. Those interested should submit a 250-500 word chapter abstract and a biography of no more than 250 words by June 10, 2018 to dancingthebluescollection@gmail.com.

All proposed abstracts will be given full consideration. Submission of an abstract implies a commitment to publish in this collection if your work is selected for inclusion. All questions regarding this collection should be directed to dancingthebluescollection@gmail.com.

Collection editors: 

  • Chelsea Adams (University of Nevada Las Vegas, The Blues and Jazz Dance Book Club)
  • Emily Winerock (The Shakespeare and Dance Project, DSA Early Dance Working Group)