Between Beats: The Jazz Tradition and Black Vernacular Dance (Paperback)
Between Beats: The Jazz Tradition and Black Vernacular Dance offers a new look at the complex intersections between jazz music and popular dance over the last hundred-plus years. Author Christi Jay Wells shows how popular entertainment and cultures of social dancing were crucial to jazz music's formation and development even as jazz music came to earn a reputation as a "legitimate" art form better suited for still, seated listening. Through the concept of choreographies of listening, the book explores amateur and professional jazz dancers' relationships with jazz music and musicians as jazz's soundscapes and choreoscapes were forged through close contact and mutual creative exchange. It also unpacks the aesthetic and political negotiations through which jazz music supposedly distanced itself from dancing bodies. Fusing little-discussed material from diverse historical and contemporary sources with the author's own years of experience as a social jazz dancer, it advances participatory dance and embodied practice as central topics of analysis in jazz studies. As it explores the fascinating history of jazz as popular dance music, it exposes how American anxieties about bodies and a broad cultural privileging of the cerebral over the corporeal have shaped efforts to "elevate" expressive forms such as jazz to elite status.
Christi Jay Wells is assistant professor of musicology at Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance, and Theatre and affiliate faculty with ASU's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. They have also been an active practitioner of social blues and jazz dancing for nearly two decades and have given numerous dance workshops and dance history lectures locally, nationally, and internationally. Their research on jazz music in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s has received the Wiley Housewright Dissertation Award and Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music.