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Footage of Horace Sprott performing the "Buck Dance"

Catalog Data

Subject of:
Horace Sprott, American, 1899 - ca. 1992  Search this
Owned by:
Ernie Smith, American, ca. 1925 - 2004  Search this
acetate film
Duration (digital file): 00:06:00
Physical extent (film): 280 ft
sound films
black-and-white films (visual works)
16mm (photographic film size)
film clips
Place depicted:
United States, North and Central America
mid 20th century
A 16mm film print with people dancing to skiffle music and Horace Sprott doing the buck dance. It consists of a single reel of positive, black-and-white, 16 mm acetate film with bilateral variable-area optical sound. In the film, women and children can be seen watching men doing the buck dance as various percussive instruments are heard in the background. Voiceover narration accompanies the picture. At one point, the narrator says, "They call it skiffle music. Step dancing goes back to the formal dances held in the big house on the plantations, from polished floors to bare earth. The buck dance, there are few who can do it well.” Men and women dance in an open field as the narrator speaks. The women leave the field and the narrator continues with "The buck dance is the exclusive property of the male dancer, a sort of show-off piece in which he exhibits masculine strength and prowess." Four men remain in the clearing: two of them clap their hands and stomp their feet, while a third plays a guitar. The fourth man, Horace Sprott, demonstrates the buck dance. At one point, the men say, "now wag your tail" and Sprott mimics the movement. Their audience laughs. At the end of his performance, Horace Sprott makes and inaudible comment, then says, "I've travelled all around," to which the narrator responds, "And Horace did travel around. It was in traveling that the music really picked up a new dimension, just as men had come into town after emancipation and found others with whom they could talk, the music…" The film ends before he completes the statement.
African American  Search this
American South  Search this
Dance  Search this
Film  Search this
Folklife  Search this
Jazz (Music)  Search this
Credit Line:
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Anonymous Gift in memory of Ernest (Ernie) R. Smith, Jazz Historian
Object number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Restrictions likely apply. Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.
See more items in:
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Media Arts-Film and Video
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture