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Ragtime Dancing By Templeton, Melissa

DOI: 10.4324/9781135000356-REM1005-1
Published: 09/05/2016
Retrieved: 24 April 2024, from


Ragtime dancing is a social dance practice, performed to ragtime music, that began in the 1890s and gained widespread popularity in US dance halls until the end of World War I. With roots in both African and European dance traditions, ragtime dancing began in jook houses of the South and dance halls of the North, and developed largely in the African American community before making its way to white participants through migration, integrated dance halls, and the vaudeville stage. Popular interest in ragtime dancing eventually led to its performance in ballrooms and on Broadway (though the dances changed with each new iteration). During the peak of its popularity, ragtime dancing, with its intimate embrace and free improvisatory form, was seen as liberatory and represented the changes that came with modernity and the new century. In addition, ragtime dancing’s energetic movements inspired changes in women’s fashion that became iconic of modernism’s “New Woman.” In its prime, ragtime dancing was often itself referred to as “modern dancing.”

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Templeton, Melissa. Ragtime Dancing. Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, Taylor and Francis,

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