Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain

1st Edition

By Rishona Zimring


240 pages

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Social dance was ubiquitous in interwar Britain. The social mingling and expression made possible through non-theatrical participatory dancing in couples and groups inspired heated commentary, both vociferous and subtle. By drawing attention to the ways social dance accrued meaning in interwar Britain, Rishona Zimring redefines and brings needed attention to a phenomenon that has been overshadowed by other developments in the history of dance. Social dance, Zimring argues, haunted the interwar imagination, as illustrated in trends such as folk revivalism and the rise of therapeutic dance education. She brings to light the powerful figurative importance of popular music and dance both in the aftermath of war, and during Britain’s entrance into cosmopolitan modernity and the modernization of gender relations. Analyzing paintings, films, memoirs, a ballet production, and archival documents, in addition to writings by Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Vivienne Eliot, and T.S. Eliot, to name just a few, Zimring provides crucial insights into the experience, observation, and representation of social dance during a time of cultural transition and recuperation. Social dance was pivotal in the construction of modern British society as well as the aesthetics of some of the period’s most prominent intellectuals.


'Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Inter-War Britain is a fascinating account of the significance of dance as symptom and therapy for a war-ravaged and cosmopolitan modernity, and of dance as tool and trap for women navigating their way through the modern world.' - Andrea Zemgulys, University of Michigan, USA ’Writings on dance between the wars have hitherto been dominated by theatrical dance - from Ballets Russes to Isadora Duncan - and Zimring makes a powerful argument for the serious study of social dance. The inclusion of folk dance within this study is to be applauded.’ English Dance and Song Magazine 'Social Dance and the Modernist Imagination in Interwar Britain offers a rich description of the dance cultures of the modernist period … Zimring offers a refreshing account of interwar modernism’s ambivalent view of dance.' Woolf Studies Annual '[This book] contextualises the depiction of dance in images and writing within deep concerns about society and modernity largely engendered by experience of the Great War, making this an important text for understanding the modernism of the interwar years. Zimring's scholarship is admirable.' Dance Research

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: a nation in the mood to dance; Prologue: social dance, musical entertainments, and the question of sociability; Couples and flirts: dance after war in Lawrence and Mansfield; How Bloomsbury danced; Dancing in place: folk, mass, and visions of community; ’Feet rising and falling’: dance, meter, and modernity in Eliot’s East Coker; Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Rishona Zimring is Associate Professor of English at Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature