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Black Bottom By Stroik, Adrienne

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM50-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 01 October 2023, from


The Black Bottom dance began as an early twentieth-century African American social dance in the Southern United States. It later entered the American mainstream via Broadway productions, and underwent significant alterations during transmission. The Great Migration, urbanization, and industrialization resulted in the Black Bottom being brought into urban black communities and theaters in the Northeast and Midwest. In the 1920s, white directors and performers went into the predominately black neighborhood of Harlem and witnessed the dance performed by black performers in segregated theaters, and later received private instruction from black dancers. These performers and directors took their knowledge of Black Bottom out of the black community and onto the stages of Broadway. This transmission into theatrical performance ignited the widespread popularity of the Black Bottom, and led to its presence in white social entertainment venues (the dance, however, was drastically simplified). Black Bottom became part of modernist American society, which in itself was drawn to white appropriation of black practices. The Black Bottom established that dancing modern often meant adopting, adapting, and performing black dances.

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Citing this article:

Stroik, Adrienne. "Black Bottom." The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism. : Taylor and Francis, 2016. Date Accessed 1 Oct. 2023 doi:10.4324/9781135000356-REM50-1

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