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JUBA DANCE: The dance of African slaves in American plantations



- History of Juba dance - Enslaved Africans brought it from the Kongo to Charleston, South Carolina, as the Juba dance, which then slowly evolved into what is now the Charleston. This one-legged sembuka step, over-amd-cross, arrived in Charleston between 1735 and 1740. Similar in style to the "one-legged" sembuka-style dancing found in northern Kongo, the dance consists of "patting" (otherwise known as "patting Juba"), stamping, clapping, and slapping of arms, chest, and so forth.The name "Charleston" was given to the Juba dance by European Americans. In Africa, however, the dance is called the Juba or Djouba. The word Juba was used for many things, such as songs sung on the plantation, the food given to the field slaves, and the dance that later became know as the Charleston. The Juba dance itself was primarily a competitive dance of skill.Later, the Charleston dance, which had evolved over the centuries, spread northward as African Americans migrated north. At first, the step was a simple twisting of the feet to rhythm in a lazy sort of way. When the dance hit Harlem, a new version surfaced. It became a fast kicking of the feet both forward and backward, later done with a tap.The Charleston and other African dances started out as spectator dances, then became participant dances. Nevertheless, the Charleston became so popolar that a premium was even placed on hiring of black domestics who could dance it well enough to teach the lady of the house. The dance also can be seen in other parts of the world, such as in Haiti, where it is called La Martinique. Later in the mid-19th century, music and lyrics were added, and there were public performances of the dance. Its popularization may have indirectly influenced the development of modern tap dance. The most famous Juba dancer was William Henry Lane, or Master Juba, one of the first black performers in the United States. It was often danced in minstrel shows, and is mentioned in songs such as "Christy's New Song" and "Juba", the latter by Nathaniel Dett.


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