The Truth about the Shimmy, a dance we all love


A dance we all know and love and use has an unkind way of how it was discovered. A friend and fellow performer posted this one her Facebook page. Amazing and shocking—

The “Dark” Truth about the Shimmy…or why cultural exchange isn’t always an equal exchange-by Mz. Ginger Snapz (Seattle, WA)

Ethel Waters (pictured here http://info.net/usa/ewaters.jpg) singer, dancer, actress was one of the choreographers and instructors for the Ziegfield Girls of Ziegfeld Follies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziegfeld_girl) from which she would have also been racially barred. Her contribution were, of course, unacknowledged then and are rarely mentioned now in histories of the
follies.

A white choreographer and dance teacher, Irene Castle, who also worked with Ziegfeld and was personally instructed by Ethel Waters, describes a “newly found” dance:

“We get our new dances from the Barbary Coast (North Africa). Of course they reach New York in a very primitive state and have to be considerably toned down before they can be used in the drawing room. There is one just arrived now — it is still very very crude — and it’s called ‘Shaking the Shimmy.’ It’s a n*gger dance, of course (of course…), and it appears to be a slow walk with frequent twitching of the shoulders. The teachers may try and make something of it” (from Jayna Brown, Babylon Girls)

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