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Why Was the Charleston Dance Popular in 1920s?

/ Queendancer

1920 party

Charleston is a dance named after the seaport city of Charleston, South Carolina. This is a very fun and upbeat dance that was super popular during 1920s, especially favored by the young flappers.


When Was the Charleston Dance Popular?

From the late 1920s to the 1940s, the Charleston dance was the most popular. It was related to another dance style popular at the time called "Lindy Dancing".


charleston dance


Why Was this Dance Called Charleston?

The Charleston Dance takes its name from the port city of Charleston, South Carolina.

It was also the inspiration for the 1923 musical Runnin' Wild - the most popular song in the musical is also known as "Charleston."

James P. Johnson, who wrote Charleston Rhythms, was inspired by the music of South Carolina dockworkers, whose rich musical heritage combined African, Caribbean and Latin American influences.

In addition to Johnson, Charleston is associated with a wide range of jazz musicians — most notably members of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, who have attended many high-profile events across the country.

 1920 flapper dress

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Why Was the Charleston Dance So Popular in 1920s?

Like so many things in life, the Charleston dance was so popular because it's so different from the dances that came before it. It was a looser, more expressive style of dance, which made it a perfect match for the new, exciting jazz music of the time. 

The 1920s are known by many as the "Roaring Twenties". This is because they were a period of relative growth and prosperity, in stark contrast to the previous decade, when World War I affected most of the world in some form.

With this newfound time and money, many people were engaging with arts and culture in unprecedented ways. Nightclubs and dance halls opened across Europe and North America, and jazz blared, perfectly capturing the optimism and energy of the era. So, it's no surprise that Charleston could so popular!


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Why Was the Charleston Dance Banned?

Charleston was banned in many places, thanks in large part to its ties to African American culture. In the early 20th century, blacks did not have the same rights as whites, which meant dances like Charleston were viewed with suspicion by those in power.

It's also worth remembering that for all the excesses of the 1920s, attitudes were more socially conservative then than they are today. This means that Charleston was banned in many places because it was considered indecent.

Lastly, there were some concerns about the safety of the Charleston because it was so popular. In one notable incident, more than 40 people were killed after a floor collapsed at a Boston venue.

You might be surprised to learn that the Charleston dance isn't the first dance move to be banned! While you might not think the waltz is particularly exciting, it was banned by the Pope, who disapproved of physical contact between partners. Other banned dances include tango and two-step.


1920 flapper heels