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[Video] The Politics of Dancing I: The Hambone

This video gallery started as a tribute to those talented enough with rhythm to do The Hambone properly. To see most of the performances on YouTube, it would have appeared to be a pasttime of redneck white Southerners, but this is so far from the case, that I have to conclude that everyone is into it.

In the American South, it’s called The Hambone; in the North, it’s called The Hand Jive; in West Africa where it originated, it’s called The Juba Dance, a relative of the tap dance. It is an art involving lots of clapping, body slapping, and other artfully noisy uses of the hands. The Juba Dance, a dance which involves both hand percussion on the body as well as toe tapping, was brought to The States during the antebellum period where slaves were not allowed to use drums or other instruments for fear it would be used as a method of communication.

But once blacks started doing it, it quickly caught on among whites, where it became known as “The Hambone”. NCAA basketball coach Bo Ryan explains how he learned The Hambone while attending grade school in Philadelphia:

Now throw in some vocal noise and hand farting, and you have a comic act by The Hambone Brothers on the popular ’70s TV show “Hee Haw”, seen here with Roy Clarke:

Steve Hickman throws in some mouth popping and seems to slap himself in the head several times, to the amusement of many giggling children and their parents:

I thought I would save the best for last. Samuel Hicks hails from North Carolina and was just doing the hambone in front of a relative’s video camera in the early 90s. He is so fast, one may be led to believe that those aren’t really hands and more like bionic prosthetic devices:

Next in this series: The Hand Jive

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