Roehampton Dance Research Seminar: Theresa Buckland ‘Agents of Control or Creativity? Leading Social Dancers of 1920s London’


Agents of Control or Creativity? Leading Social Dancers of 1920s London

Professor Theresa Buckland, Dance Department, University of Roehampton

8 December 2014, 6-7:30pm, DU.210, Duchesne Building, Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton SW15 5PJ

Free, all welcome

During the 1920s, the modern English style of ballroom dancing was developed by an influential group of middle-class dancers and teachers in London’s fashionable dance clubs and studios. Within academic discourse on popular dance practices, the codification of social dancing by an elite is typically examined as the machinations of cultural appropriation and socio-political control.  Recent literature from the fields of social, cultural and literary history and geography has analysed  the emergence of the English ballroom style through the lenses of class, race, nationalism and mobility. Although such interpretations are justifiable from the historical record, the actual practice of dancing is often side-lined or lost from such studies.

What were the kinetic contributions and dance backgrounds of key people such as Josephine Bradley, Victor Silvester, and Maxwell Stewart?  What problems did they perceive in the social dancing of the time? When, where and how did they address them through their dancing and teaching? Placing the dancers and the dancing at the centre of this inquiry, I  aim to redress this imbalance by exploring issues of a creative and  choreographic nature in the early years of making of the modern ballroom style.