1st Edition

Embodied Nostalgia Early Twentieth Century Social Dance and the Choreographing of Broadway Musical Theatre

By Phoebe Rumsey Copyright 2023
    246 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Embodied Nostalgia is a collection of interlocking case studies that focus on how social dance in musical theatre brings forth the dancer on stage as a site of embodied history, cultural memory, and nostalgia, and asks what social dance is doing performatively, dramaturgically, and critically in musical theatre.

    The case studies in this volume are all Broadway musicals set during the Jazz Age (1910-1950), however, performed and produced after that time, creating a spectrum of nostalgic impulses that are interrogated for social and political resonance and meaning. All reflect the fractures or changes in the social dance when brought to the stage and expose the complexities of the embodied nostalgia – broadly interpreted as the physicalizing of community memories, longings, and historical meaning – the dances carry with them. Particular attention is focused on the Black ownership of the social dances and the subsequent appropriation, cultural theft, and forgotten legacies.

    By approaching musical theatre through this lens of social dance––always already deeply connected to notions of class and race––and the politics of choreography therein, a unique and necessary method to describing, discussing, and critically evaluating the body in motion in musical theatre is put forth.



    Part 1: Ragtime – The Heartbeat of the Modern Era 

    Chapter 1: "Juke joints supposed to be in the woods": Nostalgia for privacy and place in The Color Purple

    Chapter 2: "This was a music that was theirs": Ragtime and the Breakdown of Collective Nostalgia

    Chapter 3: "Till Georgie Took ‘Em Away": Counter Nostalgia and Cultural Theft in Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed

    Part 2: The Charleston – Lively and Liberated

    Chapter 4: "Men say it’s criminal what women will do": Thoroughly Modern Millie and Nostalgia for the "New Woman"

    Chapter 5: "I need to do the Black Bottom!": Demystifying Nostalgia in The Wild Party

    Chapter 6: "I don’t want to show off no more": Parody and Nostalgia Go Toe to Toe in The Drowsy Chaperone

    Part Three: Swing Dance – Rally and Rebound

    Chapter 7: "Good neighbors – Good neighbors": Wonderful Town and Nostalgia for Lost Communities.

    Chapter 8: When Nostalgia is Your Only Hope: Steel Pier and Dance Marathons

    Chapter 9: "Get in the game": Destabilizing Nostalgia in the Crisis of Identity in Allegiance

    Conclusion: "Just like it was before": The Promise Continues



    Phoebe Rumsey is a Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre at the University of Portsmouth in the UK. She received her PhD from The Graduate Center, CUNY.