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1923 - Charleston Dance Becomes Popular

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Dancing Charleston

Bee Jackson, world Charleston dance champion perfoming in front of a mirror. Jackson was the first dancer to popularize the Charleston with white Americans.

General Photographic Agency / Stringer/ Hulton Archives/ Getty Images

Charleston Dance Becomes Popular (1923): The Charleston dance became popular after appearing along with the song, "The Charleston," by James P. Johnson in the Broadway musical Runnin' Wild in 1923.

Although the origins of the dance are obscure, the dance has been traced back to blacks who lived on an island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina (which is why the dance is called "Charleston"). The Charleston dance had been performed in black communities since 1903, but did not become internationally popular until the musical debuted in 1923.

The music for the Charleston is ragtime jazz, in quick 4/4 time with syncopated rhythms.

The dance uses both swaying arms and the fast movement of the feet. To begin the dance, one first moves the right foot back one step and then kicks backwards with the left foot while the right arm moves forward. Then both feet and arms are replaced to the start position and the right foot kicks forwards while the right arm moves backwards. This is done with a little hop in between steps.

The Charleston dance became extremely popular in the 1920s, especially with Flappers. The dance could be done by oneself, with a partner, or in a group.

See full article: Flappers

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