Interview with Ralph Giordano, author of the book Social Dancing in America ~ Swing, jazz and blues - Dance to the music

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Interview with Ralph Giordano, author of the book Social Dancing in America

This is the first part of an interview with Ralph G. Giordano who recently published his book Social Dancing in America: A History and Reference Volume 2 Lindy Hop to Hip Hop, 1901-2000.

Part 1: How come you wrote a book about social dancing?
[Part 2: Which dances do you write about in the book?]

I teach part-time at the City University of New York and have been writing for historical journals and the thought of combining an historical/cultural work with my own love of social dancing was intriguing.
I definitely wanted to write a scholarly contribution to the very much overlooked American cultural development of Social dancing, however, I wanted to present it in a writing style that would appeal to the average individual. I have discovered in my time within dance clubs, especially the swing dances, that many individuals enjoy dressing in period costume and are quite interested in the history of their favored dance style.

My wife and I have danced in over 23 states in America and six other countries, and visited hundreds of dance clubs, probably a thousand or more if you include outdoor dance events. A very good tool that I learned from architecture is the empirical study of the movement of people when they do not know that they are being observed. In that same sense I was obviously heavily involved in actually dancing or learning a dance style. In the kinetic motion of dancing it is extremely important to just try and move with the music. In that same end it was extremely important being within the social dance environment and also visiting the Cecil Sharp House in London as well as taking a series of classes in English Country-dancing. My wife and I attended and it became an invaluable aid when I was researching the written description of the 18th century dances that I fully understood them because of our time actually performing the steps.

So as it turns out, to date this is the first book of its kind that has put together both a general interest reader and a scholarly work that discusses social dancing in a complete social, cultural, economic, political, and historical context. Many social dance books of the period simply provided descriptions and step-by-step instructions on “how to dance” as opposed to why people dance. My book also provides a consistent theme that contemporary dances and the associated music and fashion were more often attacked by forces of social morality and often labeled the newest dance trend as “scandalous.”

This book is not a book to teach people “How to Dance” there are literally thousands of publications and hundreds of dance studios available to do just that. This book is an attempt to provide a clear understanding of what was involved in the basic patterns and rhythms of the dance, the origins, the popularity, but most importantly to place each in a historical and social context. This book is about the dances themselves and their importance in a social context. Therefore, each chapter contains a brief introduction of the social, political, and cultural climate. The book is about how individual Americans; mainly couples interacted in a social dance setting.

1 comment:

rikp said...

We featured this book on our news on Yehoodi a little while ago. Glad to see that you have done this interview. Looking forward to reading more!