Lindsay Guarino’s new book challenges the devaluation of jazz dance’s Black American history
Lindsay Guarino, associate professor and chair of the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, has published her second text on jazz dance, entitled “Rooted Jazz Dance: Africanist Aesthetics and Equity in the Twenty-First Century” from the University Press of Florida. The book is available Feb. 1.
“Rooted Jazz Dance” challenges dominant narratives on jazz dance by looking critically at the impacts of white supremacy on a Black American art form. Co-editors are Carlos R. A. Jones, associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and professor of musical theatre and dance at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and Wendy Oliver, professor of dance and chair of the Department of Theater, Dance and Film at Providence College.
Guarino, who has previously co-edited “Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches,” authored three chapters in the new book: “Whiteness and the Fractured Jazz Dance Continuum,” “Where’s the Jazz? A Multi-Layered Approach for Viewing and Discussing Jazz Dance” and “Connective Threads: Jazz Aesthetics, Jazz Music, and the Future of Jazz Dance Studies.”
In the book, the authors argue that jazz dance’s inaccurate historical narrative often sets Euro-American aesthetics and values at its inception. Yet the writers argue that jazz dance’s roots were systemically erased and remain widely marginalized and untaught, and the devaluation of the Africanist origins and lineage in jazz dance has largely gone unchallenged.
That history of jazz dance is closely tied to the history of racism in the United States, according to the writers. Each contributor challenges a century of misappropriation by leaning into difficult conversations of reparations for jazz dance. The volume overcomes a major roadblock to racial justice in the dance field by amplifying the people and culture responsible for the jazz language.
The writers in “Rooted Jazz Dance” also offer strategies for teaching rooted jazz dance and provide examples for changing dance curricula. Featured are jazz dance scholars, practitioners, choreographers and educators from across the United States and Canada who share a goal of changing the course of practice in future generations.
“[The book] explores the long overdue recognition of jazz dance as historically a Black American form of dance, steeped in Africanist aesthetics that parallel the cultural history of Black people in the country,” wrote Halifu Osumare, author of “Dancing in Blackness: A Memoir,” in a review. “It is not only a timely correction to our dance culture, but is also necessary for proper assessment of who we are as a national culture.”
Jill Flanders Crosby, co-author of “Situated Narratives and Sacred Dance: Performing the Entangled Histories of Cuba and West Africa,” also gladly endorsed the book. “Jazz has long assumed multiple identities, many that obscure its Africanist roots,” she said. “With courage and conviction, contributors do justice to the form and all of its identities while taking a firm stance in where it is truly rooted.”