About this website
Women Dancers From Jazz to Bebop is my attempt to make a useful list of inspiring women jazz dancers. It is not comprehensive, it is a work in progress, and it is intended as a reference tool. That means that it should be a beginning place for finding out more about women dancers, not an all-the-answers cheat sheet.
This website was a response to the 2011 Women's History Month theme 'Women In The Business of Food'. I wasn't particularly inspired by this theme, in fact, my mind was really a little more preoccupied with a recently acquired injury. Unable to dance for at least a month, I was determined to keep my thoughts positive. I needed inspiration.
I began by posting a Facebook status update on the 3rd of March: "Sam Carroll is celebrating Women's History Month", and then followed up by posting a clip of Josephine Baker with the comment "Women's History Month: Josephine Baker!" I decided to post a different woman jazz dancer each day, with clips from Youtube when I could find them. To be sure I wouldn't lose these posts behind the FB fence, I reposted them on my blog and on Twitter. Within a week I'd had a number of requests for a compiled list. This website is the result.
Well, the first iteration was the result. But it was awful, and invented before I'd even begun thinking about responsive design. So this website is the result. Responsive, yo!
This website is also largely structured around available footage of dancers. I'm interested in watching dancers, and using footage as a guide for my own dancing. So this collection is dominated by women who starred in films. This means that it is sadly lacking in less well-known dancers.
I've chosen women who inspire me, and on the 8th of March - International Women's Day - I posted a clip featuring Sugar Sullivan, a woman dancer who particularly inspired me. This list of women here, on this site, is not comprehensive. It is organised entirely by my own interests. This is a list designed to inspire me, and to keep my chin up while I haven't been able to dance.
One of the things I noticed while compiling this list, one dancer at a time, every day, was that most clips and discussions of dance partners or dance footage list the male partner first, and often don't name the female dancer at all. I was surprised by my own unfamiliarity with women dancers from this period. I knew their names, I had a rough idea of what they did, but I cerrtainly didn't know them as well as I knew the male dancers. So this list is also mapping my own learning about women jazz dancers.
Making this list not only stretched my resources, it had me bothering dance historians and researchers all over the world, by email, Facebook, Twitter and instant messenger. So I have to say
To all the people who helped me identify dancers in clips and photos, or who suggested women dancers. Most particularly:
Peter Loggins, who was ridiculously patient with my endless requests for names and suggested some of the most inspiring women for my list.
Some very fine women dancers of the modern day - Anaïs Sékiné, an inspired dancer and dance historian based in Montreal, and Marie N'Diaye, a French dancer based in Sweden. Both these women have not only inspired me with their historically grounded dancing, but with the way they've brought to life exciting women's dance projects of their own. And they've given me approximately one million names to add to this list.
Bobby White, though he probably doesn't realise it, provided a useful starting point for identifying dancers in footage with his Index of Basic Classic clips.
Rayned Wiles, who supplied some excellent links to useful resources.
Of course, any errors in this collection are all my own work. Do drop me an email if you spot a mistake. The acronym 'u.c.' means a name or item is currently 'unconfirmed'.
Many thanks to Dave Cheney, who suffered through my learning to make databases, then abandoning them, and who continues to buy me domains and find space on his server for my projects. Good, work, mate.
About Sam Carroll
I have been a keen lindy hopper since 1998. So keen I completed a PhD discussing swing dancers' use of digital media in 2006 (funded by a La Trobe University postgraduate award). I have also published a number of journal articles discussing various aspects of my research.
Since then I've realised that almost everything I wrote about dance history was wrong. In this case, the most reliable sources for vernacular jazz dance history are the people who were there at the time. Eye witnesses. The next most reliable sources are those who've taken the time to talk to these dancers, and to learn to dance themselves. I take a great deal of pleasure in the idea that academic researchers have been routinely hoodwinked and misled by jazz dancers. Jazz dance is mischevious, transgressive and delicously sly by nature. The only real way to understand it, properly, is by doing it.
So please read this website not as an authoritative list or guide. It is a record of my own interests, and of the women and dancing which inspire my own dancing.
A good response to this website would be an alternative list.
The very best response would be trying out the steps yourself.