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Burial and the politics of dead bodies in times of COVID-19 (part 2)
Graham Denyer Willis, Finn Stepputat, and Gaëlle Clavandier
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Social dancing in the USSR from the 1920s to the early 1960s
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

Ballroom dancing developed in the USSR in a specific set of conditions typical to many totalitarian regimes. During the period in question, the Soviet party-state aimed for political and ideological control over its citizens. Naturally, this included control over their leisure activities. For the entirety of the Soviet Period, political and public discourse maintained that dance served as one of the most desirable ways for individuals (and especially youth) to spend their free time. It was concluded that dance had a huge influence on Soviet citizens’ political consciousness, physical development, moral character and taste. This explains why state and public institutions, alongside dance and music experts, continuously tried to invent and disseminate new Soviet dances that would serve to educate the so-called ‘New Soviet Man’. Among other things, these ambitious goals often required the prohibition or censorship of modern western dancing styles. The politics of prohibiting and allowing certain types of dances varied depending on the era and was linked to wider political developments. However, attempts by Soviet politicians and some of the most renowned choreographers to regulate and nationalise the dance practice of the population were rendered less effective by the efforts of many dance evening organisers and the practice of amateur dancers to use the state project for their own motives. Social dancing allowed Soviet citizens to learn gender-specific body language and communication, to find friends and even partners for life. Those who engaged in couple dances quickly mastered the language of the official ideology to legitimise their practice to the state when necessary.

in Worlds of social dancing
Dancers, musicians, and the transformation of social dancing into mass culture in the USA, c. 1900–41
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

This chapter addresses two topics. To begin with, it asks why popular social dancing in the USA changed from a disreputable, cheap amusement into a legitimate mass culture between the turn of the twentieth century and the beginning of the Second World War. This question is answered with reference to a dance hall industry that emerged in the 1920s and that integrated with network radio, sound film and the music business. Changes in the organisation of social dancing had implications for encounters on the dance floors, which are the second topic of the chapter. Zooming in on these encounters, the chapter argues that the mass culture of social dancing that was established by the 1930s softened the boundaries of class, but reinforced distinctions of gender and race. The chapter proceeds in three chronological parts. The first part looks at ‘tough’ dances in working-class saloons in the first decade of the twentieth century and argues that these steps often served young men and women as a strategy to avoid (rather than initiate) intimacy. The second part focuses on irreverent ‘animal’ steps in Broadway cabarets in the 1910s and explains their adoption by respectable middle-class dancers with peer pressure from a critical mass of people who relished improvisation and thus sanctioned ‘outlandish’ conduct. The third part moves to the dance palaces of the 1920s and 1930s and shows how this ‘Dreamland’ facilitated romantic encounters between white heterosexual men and women, while excluding ethnic and sexual minorities.

in Worlds of social dancing
Establishing conventions of romantic couple dancing in interwar Germany
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

Starting from the observation that couple dancing requires the co-ordination of movements, music and mutual expectations, the chapter traces the development of conventions of couple dancing in Germany from the 1920s to the 1930s. It argues that standard steps, danceable music and well-established scripts for how to conduct oneself and what to expect from dance hall encounters were pivotal for men and women to take the risk of seeking love on the dance floor, and it shows that these conventions were established only by the 1930s. The chapter studies musicians, songwriters, dance teachers, venue operators and critics of social dancing to trace the changes of the social world of dancing under the impact of a new mass culture. Focusing on Berlin, it builds on the trade press of these groups of actors as well as on primary evidence from the archives of the city’s ‘theatre police’. The chapter consists of two chronological parts. The first focuses on the 1920s and challenges the familiar perception of dancing in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ as a spontaneous and emancipating outburst by showing that dance floor encounters were in fact fraught with tension. Music and steps were out-of-sync; the reputation of dance was tainted. The second part looks at changes in the technology, economy and regulation that transformed the entertainment business around 1930 and gauges their impact on social dancing. From this moment on, social dancing acquired the function as a primary setting to instigate heterosexual romantic relationships.

in Worlds of social dancing
Everyday practices and affective experiences of social dancing in Fascist Italy
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

This chapter engages with contemporary discourses on interwar dancing in Fascist Italy, and with the ‘continual oscillation between authorisation and prohibition’ that characterised the fascist regime’s policies towards dancing, but it principally focuses its attention on the social practices, lived realities and affective experiences of dancing during this time, asking how, to what, where and with what results did Italians actually dance? As such it both moves beyond the emphasis on establishment ‘moral panic’ which has typified much of the (short) Italian historiography on social dancing to date and connects the history of social dancing to the growing interest in the histories of everyday life and the lived experience of dictatorship. Using a range of contemporary diaries and memoirs, and also ‘reading against the grain’ official sources, such as the records of the administrative police who were responsible for issuing and monitoring dance hall licences, the chapter uncovers a multifaceted and dynamic social world of dancing in interwar Italy, one in which Italian dancers stepped in and out of the state’s gaze in different ways and at different times. Above all, the chapter argues that, despite the fascist dictatorship’s attempts to curb and shape social dancing in archly nationalistic terms, the actual practices, lived and affective realities and experiences of social dancing in fascist Italy operated within markedly transnational frameworks.

in Worlds of social dancing
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Tango music and dance in Japan, 1913–40
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

This chapter examines the cultural history of tango in Japan, 1913-40, in the context of Japan’s ‘modernisation’. One crucial culture from abroad brought into the Japanese aristocracy during the late nineteenth to early twentieth century was social dancing, paving the way for tango’s arrival in the 1910s through British–American dance networks. At first feared, tango’s cultivation as news story, popular stage performance, leisure pursuit and music genre impacted its dissemination across the wider Japanese population, influencing social relations. Key Japanese dance aficionados and transnational networks played a central role in this story, as did technological change and the regulation of dance and entertainment. From the late 1920s, Japanese dance aficionados established the popular Japanese dance hall culture, and collaborated with the media as well as with major record companies to disseminate ‘authentic Argentine tango’ music and dance steps across Japan. In this process, disjunctures between class positions and racialised discourses surrounding Argentine tango, influenced by the ‘elegant/vulgar’ debates in the British–American dance networks, shaped the processes of authenticating tango dancing in Japan. The early reception of tango in Japan illuminates the processes of inclusion and exclusion through, and within, dancing, listening and knowledge production.

in Worlds of social dancing
The case of New Zealand between the two World Wars
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

During the 1920s, New Zealand, like many other components of the British Empire, experienced the arrival of a strain of popular culture that had originated in the United States of America, imported either directly or indirectly. This was the arrival of jazz. Jazz bands toured, overseas music publishers circulated jazz music and gramophone manufactures released jazz recordings. Alongside this, a number of new dance ‘crazes’ (enjoying perhaps one season of popularity before disappearing) that had also originated in the USA were performed in the Dominion. Such dances were depicted in films of the period shown in New Zealand’s cinemas. Fast-paced, ‘frivolous’ and ‘fun’, these dances gave way to more sedate forms in the 1930s. In tandem with these developments, anxieties regarding dances and dance halls rose and fell during the years between the two global wars. This chapter investigates this transformation and argues that it was caused as much by changes in the music and entertainment ecology – for instance the rise of radio and the growing synergies between dancing and film – as it was the efforts of dance teachers and regulators to keep the public from performing ‘improper’ steps.

in Worlds of social dancing
Modernities, ethnicity, and politics, 1926–47
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

This chapter offers a comprehensive account of the social and political worlds that emerged in the ballroom-style dance spaces of Kenya between the 1920s and the late 1940s. This chapter is interested in Kikuyu and colonial discourses about ‘European dances’ for what they tell us about African agency in the making of new local dancing cultures and for how they highlight the disruptive impact of British colonialism upon local power and gender relations. I examine whether ‘European dances’ in Kikuyuland amplified the scope and scale of Kikuyu youth ethnic expressions between the mid-1920s and 1947. By reclaiming African rhythms and adapting Euro-American partnering styles to new dance steps, the Kikuyu youth who engaged in ‘European dances’ were enlarging the boundaries of a contested Kikuyu embodied ethnicity. Many of these new dancing worlds were also intrinsic to Kikuyu militant anti-colonial struggle and advocacy for African rule, with dancing spaces hosting political activism.

in Worlds of social dancing
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Dance floor encounters and the global rise of couple dancing: an introduction to the worlds of social dancing
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

The introduction presents the growth of couple dancing in commercial venues around the world as the object of study and formulates questions about the reasons for this trend and its effect on class, gender, race and inter-generational relations, which are the main topics of the book. It positions the volume in the historiography and outlines the sociological concept of ‘social worlds’ as the theoretical move that the volume undertakes in order to tell new stories about social dancing in the era of the two World Wars. The introduction concludes with a summary of key findings from the chapters to address the volume’s two main questions about the ‘social’ and the geographical worlds of modern couple dancing.

in Worlds of social dancing
Glamorous careers, romantic fantasies, and sexual dreams on the dance floors of Shanghai, 1919–37
Klaus Nathaus and James Nott

The 1920s and 1920s witnessed the rise of a dance industry in Shanghai. Many of the city’s ballrooms and nightclubs featured dance hostesses or taxi-dancers, and by the late 1930s most of the young women working in this profession were Chinese. This chapter examines the following questions: 1) To what extent did dance halls in Shanghai serve as platforms for modern romantic encounters and courtship rituals among their customers? 2) Did dance establishments in Shanghai encourage and facilitate meaningful social and cultural interactions across racial, ethnic, class and national boundaries? 3) How did the ubiquitous presence of Chinese hostesses in the city’s dance halls influence and shape patterns of courtship and romantic and/or sexual encounters between men and women in the city? The chapter begins by examining the origins of couple dancing in Shanghai and shows how fashionable dances were taken up soon after their launch abroad by foreign settlers in the city and how ‘localised‘ jazz music began to attract Chinese patrons to western-style dance halls. The second part follows this trend to the late 1920s and presents factors that helped make couple dancing attractive to Chinese patrons, who at first had to overcome strong reservations against couple dancing. The third part traces the rise of taxi-dancing in the city. Focusing on the figure of the dance hostess and her role in Shanghai’s social world of dancing, it discusses couple dancing’s position between prostitution, stardom and romantic love and asks how their presence affected social relations in dance venues.

in Worlds of social dancing