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Taking the Cake: Black Vaudeville, Dance Competitions and Value


for The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Competition edited by Sherril Dodds (New York: Oxford, 2018).


The cakewalk represents one of the most important sites of competition in African-American dance history, as indicated in one of its original names, the prize walk. An examination of the cakewalk, along with tap, disco, and breaking, for example, reveals crucial insight into the development of race and class in the United States. Using primary and secondary historical sources, as well as critical race theory, this chapter analyzes the significance of competition in a number of salient cakewalk settings and argues that the political economy that develops around cakewalk competition alters our definitions of terms such as currency, value, and worth.

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