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Walking RaddyThe Baby Dolls of New Orleans$
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Kim Vaz-Deville

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781496817396

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2019

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496817396.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM Mississippi SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mississippi.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Mississippi, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

From the Bamboula to the Baby Dolls

From the Bamboula to the Baby Dolls

Improvisation, Agency, and African American Dancing in New Orleans

(p.89) From the Bamboula to the Baby Dolls
Walking Raddy

Jennifer Atkins

University Press of Mississippi

Baby Dolls embodied the rambunctious, ambulatory dance practices of New Orleans' African-American community, playing with ragtime dancing, a style in conversation with early twentieth century music. Baby Doll dancing referenced their contemporary situation, empowering them through ribald street jaunts full of dynamism, while also relating to other cultural practices like jazz funerals and connecting them to a historical legacy that traced back to Congo Square (and earlier). Essential to Congo Square, where the Bamboula dance featured prominently, was that West African dance aesthetics persevered but also blended with sociocultural ideas influenced by its New Orleans context. Improvisation was key. Dancing, whether in Congo Square or ragtime style, highlighted spontaneity and a spirited—even competitive—style that cultivated agency while acknowledging a communal presence. These moments (and movement) were vibrant, illuminating Baby Dolls as innovators within a rich, cultural tradition that left troubles behind as liveliness surged through their dancing processions.

Keywords:   Ragtime dancing, West African dancing, Congo Square, Bamboula, Improvisation

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