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Collective identity and dance in modern urban society

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Dance is much deeper than movement it is a way to bond and communicate, particularly during tough times. It would be difficult to tell the whole history of something as complicated and diverse as identity and dance in a modern urban society, this essay will explore the relationship between dance, musical taste and visual style and how that forms collective expression. This essay will also explore some of the dance and cultural movements and how the concept of lifestyle provides a useful basis for understanding how individual identities are constructed and lived out. Finally this essay will examine some of the problems identified with the concept of subculture.

Rock and Roll is a genre of music that evolved and flourished in the United States, the music being a combination of rhythm and blues and dance combines rockabilly, four Step and Swing Jive dance styles. During the 1950s a revolution occurred in youth culture, being a teen during this time had considerably transformed from previous generations, the rock and roll era may have exploded in the United States, but for most Brits going out was largely unchanged from how it was for their parents. The rock and roll music and dance in the fifties and sixties were very much imbedded in popular youth culture, including hairstyles, clothing, language as well as different morals. As an article reported in the Scooterist (2012), during this era back in Britain, the teddy boy culture paved the way for making male fashion socially acceptable, as male interest in fashion in Britain was mostly associated with the homosexual underground subculture’s flamboyant dressing style.

Prior to the hippy movement there was the dance move ‘the twist’, a large movement of the 1960s conservative backlash, which was generated primarily by young adults against their parents’ generation. The youth of the 1960s wanted change. They were aspiring, ambitious and original, and became the new heroes and heroines who helped disseminate a new wave and market of music, clothing and furniture. They rebelled and attacked not only traditional entertainment and lifestyles, but also the principles and traditions at previous generations had embraced such as authority, good work ethic, religion, no sex before marriage, and whatever the establishment represented.

The hippy movement developed in the 1960s and originated at university campuses across the United States, and became a cultural exchange across Canada and Britain. The movement started in protest to the Vietnam War (1955-75). The movement felt removed from the middle class society, and conventional values. Their style included unconventional fashion with flowery shirts and long hair. Their music choice included folk and rock.

The Women’s liberation movement, and the sexual revolution were also major developments of this decade, additionally the mod subculture had thrived and peaked in Britain, and their style was sharp, classy and edgy, often wearing tailor-made suits. Their music choice included reggae, soul, Jamaican ska, and British beat music and rhythm and blues and they had a passion for Italian motor scooters. An article on flickr, (2003), suggests that the youth subcultures helped pave the way for mod fashion by breaking new ground; the beatniks, with their bohemian image of berets and black turtlenecks, and the teddy boys, from which mod fashion inherited its fashion tendencies and the immaculate and stylish dandy look.

During the 1960s a cultural interchange between United States and Britain began this included the northern soul scene, which also exploded in the northern parts of England in particular at nights at the Wigan Casino. Energetic and enthused James Brown style dancers would showcase there drops and spins wearing baggy flares and leather soled shoes to help them glide along the wooden dance floor. Meanwhile, in New York, the search for music became more intense as disc jockeys strived to discover new records with groovy break beats, which they would discover loop by playing on two turntable record players. The dance floor had now become a discotheque and going out had begun to look less restricted and wilder. An explosion of subcultures materialised in New York clubs, like Studio 54, and the stylish underground vogue scene. Young men from various backgrounds with flamboyant fashion and shaved heads and top knots, exposing bare chests, and executing a style inspired by the ancient egyptians and the famous model poses of couture fashion magazine vouge.

The music movement of hip hop can be tracked right back to a post-industrial New York in the 1970s. The dance style involved various moves such as breaking, popping and locking. Disc jockeys would loop drum beats and breaks using a mixer to switch between the two and often speak over a beat, known within the music genre as toasting. In the 1980s, the style of fashion introduced baggy clothing shapes that disguised the contours of the body with sportswear, the style played an important role and followers would have various hairstyles such as shaved, plaited, or dreadlocked, which served the scene as a badge of belonging to this movement. The movement was generally misunderstood by the establishment who wished to censor and control the expression of the movement, including the musical lyrics and supervised the conduct and morals of young people. During the mid-1980s and early 1990s, hip-hop fashion gathered even more momentum and importance as hip-hop music exploded globally and became centre stage around the world. As a consequence, the B-boys and girls are no longer black and working class, and an explosion of subcultures emerged like rap and gangster. Hip hip culture had become main stream, delivering to a new and wider audience.

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