Videos of the Era

Videos of the 20s Era : Setting the Scene

The Great Gatsby : Defining the Jazz Age

“...The decade is remembered, perhaps romanticised, for being all about sex, alcohol and jazz…”

~ The Jazz Age


The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald and follows a cast of characters living in a fictional town on prosperous Long Island. The Great Gatsby tells the story of the Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her philandering, blue-blooded husband Tom Buchanan.


The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. It is thus, and through the narrative of Gatsby’s and Daisy’s love affair, that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. The novel provides a critical social history of America during the Roaring Twenties within its narrative. That era, known for unprecedented economic prosperity, the evolution of jazz music, flapper culture, bootlegging and other criminal activity, is creatively depicted in Fitzgerald's novel ~ and the book has become renowned for evoking the feeling of an entire era. Considered to be Fitzgerald's magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age.


Fitzgerald, inspired by the parties he had attended while visiting Long Island's elite, began planning the novel in 1923 desiring to produce, in his words: "...Something new - something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned."

First published in April 1925, The Great Gatsby received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book sold only 20,000 copies. Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten. However, his work, spearheaded by The Great Gatsby, experienced a revival during World War II, and the novel became a vital part of American high school curricula in the following decades. The Great Gatsby is widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title "Great American Novel" ~ it is consistently ranked among the greatest works of American literature. The book has remained popular ever since the renewed interest in Fitzgerald’s work during the second world war, selling millions and millions of copies worldwide, and this fascination with the story has lead to numerous stage and film adaptations. The most recent film was produced in 2012 – please see the trailer videos below.


New York 1922, the tempo of the city had changed sharply...

The Building’s were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper...



A quick sampler of the soundtrack to 'The Great Gatsby'

Video tracklisting:

1. Bang Bang – (0:01)
2. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie, Q Tip & GoonRock (0:31)
3. Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey (1:01)
4. Love Is The Drug – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra (1:32)
5. Over The Love – Florence & The Machine (2:03)
6. Where The Wind Blows – Coco O. of Quadron (2:33)
7. Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra (3:04)
8. Together – The xx (3:34)
9. Hearts A Mess – Gotye (4:06)
10. Love Is Blindness – Jack White (4:35)
11. Into the Past – Nero (5:06)
12. Kill and Run – Sia (5:36)


The Great Gatsby (1974) Trailer - Link


Below, we’ve included film footage from the 1920s and some extracts from more modern day videos, giving a taste of the dances, both traditional and some with modern interpretation. Please note that some of the older more historical film has some poor sound quality in places.


The Charleston : The dance which captured the spirit of the 1920s

 Kara Tointon & Artem Chigvintsev - Charleston - Strictly Come Dancing

 Related videos -  Group Dance Charleston - LINK  -  Charleston in Strictly Come Dancing - LINK


The Charleston was the dance which defined the 1920s era. It was danced with wild abandon by a new generation of independent young Americans, to the new hot jazz that was flooding the country.

The dance has origins in African American music and dance culture and has evolved over time. It began, as we now recognise it, in many ways at least, in Charleston, South Carolina, the city from which it takes its name. In 1923, The Charleston was featured in the Broadway show ‘Runnin Wild’, one of the biggest hits of the decade. The song from the show ~ James P. Johnson’s tune ‘The Charleston’ ~ spread the fad across the nation and onwards to the rest of the world. Josephine Baker became famous for performing the Charleston in Paris in the 1920s. The Charleston is both a solo and partnered dance, both wildly exuberant and exciting to watch. As the hot jazz of the 1920s gave way to the swinging jazz of the 1930s and 40s, the partnered version of Charleston evolved into Lindy Hop.


At first, the step started off with a simple twisting of the feet, to the rhythm in a lazy sort of way. When the dance hit Harlem, a new version was added. It became a fast kicking step, kicking the feet, both forward and backward and later done with a tap. The Charleston dance became extremely popular in the 1920s, especially with Flappers. The 1920s was the Jazz Age and one of the most popular past-times for flappers was dancing ~ dances such as the Charleston, the Black Bottom, and the Shimmy were considered ‘wild’ by the older generations, and yet the younger generation just couldn’t get enough of them, dancing and shimmying all night long...


The Black Bottom replaced "The Charleston" as the next most popular dance of the 1920's



Related videos - Black Bottom 1926, and The Black Bottom Dance - LINK   1920s dancing, footage not great but still beautiful - LINK

~ again derived from African American culture, it evolved into a jazz style dance for the young and energetic especially, requiring as it did, immense stamina for the often demanding full body movements and the continuous shoulder and hip movements. The dance became a sensation and ended up overtaking the popularity of the Charleston, eventually becoming the number one social dance. The rhythm of the Black Bottom is based on the Charleston.


Dancing was one of the most popular American past times during the 1910s and 1920s ~ and a multitude of new social dances developed during that time. One of the most talked about dances of that time was the ‘Shimmy’. Again developed from African American roots, the Shimmy was not really a dance in terms of having specific steps. Instead it was defined by a rapid horizontal shaking of the upper body, especially the shoulders. Movements sometimes also included the rigorous shaking of the torso and hips. While conservatives attacked the Shimmy for the impropriety and sexuality of its movements, as well as for its nexus with new musical trends, Americans enthusiastically embraced it as both an exhibition dance and a social dance. Dancers everywhere, professional and amateur alike, performed the Shimmy on dance floors in cabarets and in dance halls, signalling socially important shifts in American views of female sexual autonomy.


Times were changing... We can also see how dance and music directly influenced the changing fashions at this time, because these new, energetic dances of the Jazz Age, required women to be able to move freely, and this craze for dances such as the Charleston, The Black Bottom & the Shimmy, created an urgent need in young women to discard the tight corsets and stays, and the long restrictive gowns, their mothers had worn, to be replaced by looser, freer clothing with shorter and shorter hemlines which allowed extensive and energetic movement of the body. Nearly every article of clothing was being trimmed down and lightened in order to make movement easier. The Flappers' image ~ with their short hair and radically different clothing, with their wild abandon, liberated movement, and fast leg kicking dances which showed their calves and thighs ~ was considered to be a drastic ~ to some, shocking ~ change which was not only too rapid but extremely outrageous.


The Charleston, like the Black Bottom and the Shimmy which closely followed it, was like nothing seen before ~ and it remains to this day in our consciousness, as a dance that speaks of a changing era, a time that would never again go back to as it was before. When we hear that instantly recognisable Charleston tune, we can’t help but feel the spirit of the jazz age as we begin to tap our toes to that 20s rhythm we know so well ~ as we’re taken back through time and history to the spirit of the fabulous flappers girls, those bright young things full of hope and expectation and new found freedoms, and we remember the dancing of that time which above all else perhaps, tells a colourful story of the 1920s and those emancipated young women, the Flappers dancing, dancing...


Today, with the popularity of films and television programmes, we have a greater visual picture of the dances and music of the era. Strictly Come Dancing, for example, which has a huge following in the UK and the USA, has broadened the appeal of many dances including, and especially, the Charleston, which has been danced, during the programme’s history, numerous times in ever evolving and creative ways.


 So all that’s left to do now is choose your favourite flapper dress, put on your dancing shoes, and turn up the music...and dance your cares away...