Researching British (underground) jazz dancing c1979-1990


The concept of 're-remembering' (Bindas, 2010) informs my account of researching the  jazz dancing performed in clubs in Britain in the late 1970s and 1980s in which I reflect upon the findings of  my own interviews with jazz dancers and those published by the DJ’s  Mark (Snowboy) Cotgrove (2009) and Seymour Nurse (n.d. b). Further, drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field (1984), I consider how jazz styles may be understood to have proposed new British dance identities within the changing cultural field of dance in postcolonial Britain. With specific reference to video recordings of Brothers in Jazz, IDJ and the Jazz Defektors, I explore this jazz dancing in the context of the social changes of the period 1979-1990, the era in which, under the government of Margaret Thatcher, economic and political changes took place that were (and still are) a source of much controversy. Here, Bourdieu’s analysis of cultural fields provides a useful framework from which to consider how differences in practices within an arena such as jazz dancing can be understood both in relation to each other and to a wider context. Finally, recognising how the synchronic and diachronic dimensions of experience and understanding intersect (Bourdieu 1993), and drawing on the words of dance artist Sean Graham, I consider how inclusion of British (Underground) jazz dancing (also known as UK jazz)  in the wider historical understanding of dancing in Britain is important to  the current ‘field’ of dance that is still coming to terms with the social, economic and cultural changes of the recent past.

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