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Course Information

Instructor Info:Constance Hill
Office Extension x5673
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Music and Dance Building SMALL
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Music and Dance Building SMALL
07:00 PM - 09:00 PM Music and Dance Building SMALL

For students of dance, music, black studies, cultural studies: Start your Hampshire education on the beat with a socio-political history of Rhythm & Blues that takes you from your seat to (dancing in) the street. In the classroom, we will learn about the evolution of R&B from its roots in jump blues, electric blues, blues-gospels, and doo-wop to a style of soul music that reached its height of popularity in the 1960s with Motown Records in the "Motor City" of Detroit, where such tunes as Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" became not only infectious party song but reflective of the politically and racially-charged environment of black urban communities during the Black Power Movement. In the studio, we will combine basic tap steps and social dance moves into back-up dance-chorus routines in the style of Cholly Atkins, the legendary rhythm tap dancer who, as house director of Motown Records, devised "vocal choreography" for such acts as the Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, and Gladys Knight & Pips. Class routines will be rhythmically succinct but simple enough to execute and enjoy. There will also be an R&B History and Singing Lab in which students learn back-up harmonizing singing style that engages with the lyrics while (like the dancing) remaining cool, relaxed, and in control. Open to all incoming first-year students wishing to refine their rhythmic sensibilities and move with grace and style. No dance experience necessary.

Course Objectives:



Evaluation Criteria:

Mandatory Class Requirements:

  1. Attendance in classes and R&B singing labs
  2. Assigned readings and viewings  Three (1000-word) “critical reviews” of Mark Kurlansky’s Ready For A Brand New Beat; Suzanne Smith’s Dancing in the Street; and Brian Ward’s Just My Soul Responding.
  3. Mid-semester Project: Reconstruction of Motown Vocal Choreography
  4. Final Project: Original Motown Vocal Choreography
  5. Final Performance: Dancing Motown
Additional Info:

Required Texts:

Mark Kurlansky, Ready For A Brand New Beat: How “Dancing in the Street” Became the Anthem for Changing America (2013)

Suzanne E. Smith, Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit (1999)

Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm & Blues Black Consciousness, and Race Relations (1998)