Friday, March 09, 2007

The Dance: The History of American Minstrelsy

For the average consumer of popular American culture, an education of the history of American minstrelsy might very well be the single most valuable tool a consumer can equip him or herself with. The Dance: The History of American Minstrelsy, made it’s New York debut last week, offering this very history from the vantage point of two minstrels. I found myself fortunate enough to have attended.

Having acquired my understanding of American minstrelsy as a college freshman, the social lens through which I view entertainment has forever been altered. Simply, -- and doing my best to ignore a persistent mental image of Flavor Flav – popular culture’s images of black folk regularly leaves me feeling defeated.

Making use of blackface, two suitcases of props, and an iPod for a soundtrack, The Dance does its best to drop knowledge on this lost chapter of America’s entertainment history, offering a cultural analysis that satirically draws upon popular contemporary stereotypes.

Thankfully, this examination includes hip-hop, with allusions to grillz, the glorification of drug use and sexual prowess as no more than a proxy for blackface.

Admittedly, I’m still digesting the performance, so my summary is brief, while I encourage those with even scant interest in American entertainment to visit the website for the production.

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