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Columbia College Chicago
Musical Theater and Dance

Musical Theater and Dance

Definition of Style

Musical theater and dance cover a wide area of artistic expression, including musical comedy, ensemble and solo dance works, vaudeville, and the big-budget Broadway musicals of the middle of the century. Twentieth-century musical theater and dance styles show the tremendous influence of black performers, composers, directors, and producers. In the late nineteenth-century, the cakewalk, a black American social dance, became the first nationwide dance craze adopted by both black and white audiences. In Dahomey, the 1903 musical by Bert Williams and George Walker, became the first major stage work created entirely by black writers, composers, and performers. Later in the century, black dancers founded companies such as the Negro Dance Group (1931), First American Negro Ballet (1937), and the Dance Theatre of Harlem (1969), while soloists such as Pearl Primus became superstars on Broadway. Other examples of musical theater from the middle of the century include Sissle and Blake's Shuffle Among, which yielded hit songs such as "I'm Just Wild About Harrry" and "Love Will Find a Way," and Fats Waller's Hot Chocolates, an ambitious Broadway musical that spawned the songs, "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Black and Blue."

Introductory Bibliography

Peterson, Bernard L. A Century of Musicals in Black and White: An Encyclopedia of Musical Stage Works By, About, or Involving African Americans. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993. Alphabetical and comprehensive listing of theatrical productions.

Riis, Thomas L. Just Before Jazz: Black Musical Theater in New York, 1890 to 1915. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989. A classic study of a major period in American theater.

Woll, Allen. Black Musical Theatre from Coontown to Dreamgirls. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Selected Discography

The Early Minstrel Show (New World 80338)

Don't Give the Name a Bad Place (New World 80265)

Europe, James Reese. Lieut. Jim Europe's 369th U.S. Infantry "Hell Fighters" Band: The Complete Recordings (Memphis Archives MA 7020)

Sissle, Noble, and Eubie Blake. Sissle & Blake: Early Rare Recordings, Vol. 1 (Stash 129)

Williams, Bert. Bert Williams 1915-1921 (Document 5661)