the stearns' classic jazz dance: the story of american vernacular dance is partially up on google books. this book gets referenced A LOT among those who're interested in vintage jazz dance; whether they're citing it or arguing with it, those who research tend to mention it. it's missing lots of pages (including the chapter on the savoy ballroom, alas), but that leaves big swaths of the book present. dance geek joy.
i owe my running across it to emily, one of our up-and-comers, for asking a good question during the practice session last night. the idea was for students to show up and get mini-privates and individual attention from the local instructors. the crowd wound up being two students to six teachers, so we all worked on each other, and it was awesome. (hopefully, next time we'll get the word out better.) around the time we adjourned to a nearby bar and grill, emily asked, "what's with itches? where do they come from?" (itches = a "move" in which one mimics scratching oneself, usually changing into different contortions with the rhythm.) the teacher-folk were all perfectly sure it is a vintage move, passed down with all the historical authority it takes to convince new dancers to do something that looks pretty silly, but nobody could think of a vintage clip showing them. i still haven't found an appropriate video, but searching on the internet turned up this page from stearns discussing itches and their persistence through years and years of vernacular dancing.