Savoy: reassessing the role of the "World's Finest Ballroom" in music and culture, 1926-1958.
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From 1926 to 1958, the Savoy Ballroom in New York's Harlem neighborhood played a critical role in the development and showcasing of African-American popular culture. During its lifetime, the Savoy Ballroom significantly affected the concurrent development of jazz music and jazz dance, and laid important groundwork for racial integration. The Savoy Ballroom served as the home base for such jazz greats as William "Chick" Webb, Lucius Venable "Lucky" Millinder, and David "Panama" Francis, and launched the careers of John Birk "Dizzy" Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Thelonious Monk. Beyond music, the Lindy Hop, a partnered jazz dance that emerged at the Savoy during the late 1920s, was one of the Ballroom's cultural exports; it gained an unprecedented degree of fame and recognition during the late 1930s, and is still practiced today by communities across the United States and the world. The objective of this dissertation is to examine the cultural, social, and musical contribution made by the Savoy Ballroom to the promotion of African-American culture. The first and second chapters of this dissertation address the historical and cultural context of Harlem and the Savoy proper. The third chapter examines some of the emerging traditions behind the Savoy Ballroom's status as the "World's Finest Ballroom." The fourth and fifth chapters address the chronological and technical development of music and jazz dance at the Savoy, with particular attention given to the lasting impact of such advancements as the incorporation of swing feel into jazz. The sixth chapter examines the cultural impact of the Ballroom on contemporary and modern media, particularly print, music, film, and photography. Finally, the seventh chapter examines the Savoy Ballroom's participation in New York's World's Fair exhibition in 1939, and its impact on the worldwide export of Harlem's African-American culture.