Allison Abra
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The dance evil
Gender, sexuality and the representation of popular dance
in Dancing in the English style
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In 1925, playwright J. Jefferson Farjeon wrote an article for the Dancing Times entitled 'The Dance Evil'. Farjeon identified many of the negative cultural assumptions that circulated around popular dance, but also the strong tensions that existed between those assumptions and dancing's widespread popularity as a leisure form. This chapter explores popular dance's central role in articulations of femininity and masculinity between the wars, as well as in the lived experiences of women and men. It shows that public dance halls and paid dance partners were imbued with a taint of criminality and sexual immorality underpinned by class but an active campaign was waged to ameliorate the reputations of both. The conflicting views of female and male dance enthusiasts, public dancing spaces and paid dance partners were all shaped by the range of cultural anxieties about gender, sex and class that plagued British society between the wars.

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Dancing in the English style

Consumption, Americanisation and national identity in Britain, 1918–50


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