Friday, July 4, 2008

From Juba to Hoofin' and Beyond

One of the primary projects I'm working on this summer is revamping my classes. British Literature is no longer offered, and so I'm teaching semester-long courses in the Hebrew Bible, World Mythology, and Literary Nonfiction. I taught the Bible and Myth courses once 2 years ago, but the Nonfiction course is entirely new. Allen Chamberlain and I received an innovation grant to work on the course this summer, and I've been having a pretty amazing time with it. The course will deal with both written and audio nonfiction, and the preliminary ideas are on a wiki I'm developing over the summer, which will eventually become a platform for the whole class to work in.

Today, I was reading one of the essays in our textbook, and got really excited about a possible project that I may work on while the students work on their own individual projects. The essay mentioned Juba dancing, and since I didn't know what that was, I looked it up. It's a form of dance that slaves did on plantations when slave owners outlawed any musical instruments, thinking music would cause unrest and riots among the slaves. In 1848, "Master Juba" (William Henry Lane) was taken to London by P.T. Barnum to dance before Queen Victoria. While he was there, he combined Juba dancing with traditional Irish dancing to create tap dance. Reading this reminded me of one of the most astonishing Broadway shows I've ever seen - Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk - starring Savion Glover. The rest of the brainstorm - and several videos - are on the wiki, which you can check out here. It's still in rough form, but I think the videos are sufficiently amazing to justify the incompleteness of the thought process.

But just in case you don't know Savion Glover, here's a 2 minute video that ought to inspire you to look at the rest of it. But if you have time for nothing else, watch the video of him and his group (Not Your Ordinary Tappers) at the White House, which is the 2nd from last on the page.

No comments: