Scott Joplin The Ragtime Dance

Posted onby admin
Edited by Azizi Powell
This post showcases a sound file of Scott Joplin's 1902 composition 'Ragtime Dance'. Joplin's lyrics and dance instructions are also featured in this post. Information about the stop-time feature of this composition and selected comments from this YouTube sound file's discussion thread are also included in this post. I also included my interpretation of the word 'coon' as used in this song.
Click for information about Scott Joplin. Also, click for the more widely known shortened instrumental version of Scott Joplin's Ragtime Dance' (1906)
The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic reasons.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to Scott Joplin for his musical legacy. Thanks also to the publisher of this soundfile on YouTube and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
'In tap dancing, jazz, and blues, stop-time is an accompaniment pattern interrupting, or stopping, the normal time and featuring regular accented attacks on the first beat of each or every other measure alternating with silence or solos.[2] Stop-time appears infrequently in ragtime music.[3] The characteristics of stop-time are heavy accents, frequent rests, and a stereotyped cadential pattern...
Joplin's 'Stoptime Rag' (1910) employs stop-time throughout; it even lacks his characteristic four-bar introduction. Stop-time in Joplin's rags is characterized by directions in the music for performers to stomp their foot to the beat. Joplin's 'Ragtime Dance' contains the direction,[5] 'Notice: to get the desired effect of 'stop time', that the pianist will please stamp the heel of one foot heavily upon the floor at the word 'stamp'. Do not raise the toe from the floor while stamping.'
-snip- refers to this Scott Joplin composition as 'Rag-Time Dance (A Stop-Time Two Step)'
from the Album Scott Joplin: The Complete Rags, Marches, Waltzes & Songs (1895-1914).
Here's an excerpt from Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance by Marshall Winslow Stearns, Jean Stearns, (Da Capo Press; 2nd edition (March 22, 1994), p. 56
“ 'Encyclopedists and historians of the American stage,” says W. C. Handy “have slighted the old Negro minstrels while making much of the burnt cork artists who imitated them.” Professional Negro entertainers didn’t appear until the 1860s, after the Civil War, and they were few and entirely limited to the minstrel stage. “Kersands, Weston, the Hunn brothers, and some few others”, writes Marian Winters, were actually the only Negroes on stage who had steady employment.
There was no question about their talent. “These performers brought a great deal that was new in dancing”, says James Weldon Johnson, by exhibiting in their perfection the jig, the buck and wing, and the tantalizing stop-time dances.”
Scott Joplin's Ragtime Dance' appears to have been a name for a certain dance step or steps. That composition also refers to several of those 'tantalizing stop-time dances': the 'slow drag', the 'worlds fair', the 'cake walk prance', the 'clean up dance', 'the Jennie Cooler dance', the 'back step prance', the 'dude walk', and the 'the 'town talk'.
With the exception of 'the cakewalk', I'm not sure if there's any descriptions of those other dances that are named in the lyrics to Joplin's 'Ragtime Dance'. I'm assuming that 'the slow drag' mentioned in that song refers to walking slowly and isn't a referent for the same slow couples dance that I recall from the 1950s-1960s. I also assume that 'the back step prance' probably means dancing backwards. And my guess is that the 'dude walk' probably means strutting in a stately manner rather than the 2010 or so 'pimp walk' as shown in this instructional video
Any information about those dances would be appreciated.
The Ragtime Dance
Words, Instructions and Music by Scott Joplin
[Note that all specific stage directions are given in italics, while references to the directions in the lyrics are in 'quotes.' PBE]
Introduction I attened [sic] a ball last thursday [sic] night, Given by the dark town swells...Ev'ry coon came out in full dress alright [sic], And the girls were society belles...
The hall was illuminated by electric lights, It certainly was a sight to see;
So many colored folks there without a razor fight... 'Twas a great surprise to me.
Interlude: There was little Sam' Smith the great 'lady's [sic] man',
Who had the honor of being manager of the floor...
Told the people to get ready for the time is near at hand,
And the dance begins at nine o'clock you know.
Then the orchestra began to play the sweet entrancing music
Of the most popular dance of the day.
Ev'ry couple took their places all the coons had smiling faces
While they waited for the caller to say, well;
1st Verse, Begin 'rag time dance.'
Verse A1: Let me see you do the 'ragtime dance'... [music]
Turn left and do the 'Cake walk prance'... [music]
Turn the other way and do the 'Slow drag'... [music] 1st and 2nd verses, Begin 'Slow drag.'
Now take your lady to the worlds fair and do the 'ragtime dance.'
2nd Verse, Begin 'Clean up dance.'
Verse A2: Let me see you do the 'clean up dance'... [music]
Now you do the 'Jennie Cooler dance'... [music]
Turn the other way and do the 'Slow drag'... [music] 1st and 2nd verses, Begin 'Slow drag.'
Now take your lady to the worlds fair and do the 'ragtime dance.'
Form a 'Square'
Verse B1: Now 'rag' and 'circle to your left', Be careful to do your best. 1st verse, begin 'Circle.'
Take your time, stay in line, you are the ragtime guest.
Take partners do the 'rag two step', I know you are enjoying yourselves, 1st verse, begin 'Rag two step'
You are representatives Begin 'Rag time dance' of dark town's wealth. Stop where you are!
Verse B2: Ev'rybody now 'form a line', Dance nothing but the real ragtime. 2nd verse, 'Form line'
Do your best, 'forward four steps', you are all very fine. 2nd verse, begin 'Forward four steps.'
Let me see you do the 'back step prance', Be graceful at ev'ry chance. 2nd verse, begin 'back step prance'
You are now enjoying Begin 'Rag time dance' the 'ragtime dance'. Ev'ry body sing.
1st verse, begin 'Cake walk.'
Verse C1: 'Cake walk' soft and sweetly, be sure your steps done neatly.
Keep up a slow advance, 'twill put you in a trance.
Now 'form a line' as you did before, you're dancing with your best beau, 1st and 2nd verses, 'Form line.'
But the only real thing is Begin 'Rag time dance' the 'ragtime dance'. Ev'rybody turn;
2nd verse, 'Turn to your right.' 2nd verse, begin 'Dude walk.'
Verse C2: To your right do the 'dude walk', 'tis a wonderful sight is the 'town talk',
This is your only chance, enjoy it while you can.
Now 'form a perfect straight line', get ready for the 'Stop time', 1st and 2nd verses, 'Form line.'
You are the 'easy winners' in Begin 'Rag time dance' the ragtime dance.
Notice. To get the desired effect of 'Stop Time' the pianist will please Stamp the heel of one foot heavily upon the floor at every word 'Stamp.' Do not raise the toe of the foot from the floor while stamping. Author.
1st Lady........'dance.'}
2nd Lady........'dance.'}
3rd Lady........'dance.'}
4th Lady........'dance.'}
After the ladies area through dancing then the
1st Gent........'dance.'
2nd Gent........'dance.'
3rd Gent........'dance.'
4th Gent........'dance.'
Pianist will pause until last Gent has finished dancing.

Final Section 1: [Descending thirds] Turn left walk around,
[Descending thirds] Walk 'Sedidus' now.
2nd verse, begin 'Sedidus walk' Everybody 'in line' with last dancer.
Final Section 2: [Descending thirds] We've finished in a prance,
[Descending thirds] The 'Rag time dance.'
My guess is that 'sedidus' is an African American Vernacular English (AAVE) word that means the same thing as the AAVE word 'sadity' [from the word 'society', meaning high society, upper class]. A sadity person is snobbish, and treats people in an arrogant, condesending manner. In the context of this song, 'sedidus' probably means the same thing as means 'strut'.
SHOWCASED SOUND FILE The Ragtime Dance - SCOTT JOPLIN (1906) Ragtime Piano Legend
Keeper1st, Uploaded on Feb 3, 2012
While the shortened instrumental from 1906 is well known, the original song version from 1902 is rarely heard -- and never with the lyrics. So here it is in its full form with dance instructions. There were full dance instructions available originally but they have been lost to history. Some of the dance steps mentioned are a mystery today.
You can download the sheet music of this song version here:
You may be wondering why Joplin, an African-American, would have used the word 'coon' which is considered highly racist today. At the time, the word was as innocuous as 'redneck' is today. It referred to a specific segment of the African-American population in the same way that 'redneck' refers to a specific segment of the white population.
Read my comment below in the Selected Comment section that disagrees with the video publisher's statements about the meaning of the word 'coon' in Joplin's 'Ragtime Dance'. That said, 'coon' sometimes was and is still used [mostly by non-Black people] as a pejorative referent for Black people.
SELECTED COMMENTS FROM [the showcased sound file]
F0nkyNinja, 2011
'Is Scott Joplin steppin' in his grave from 3:07 forward?'
Keeper1st, 2011
in reply to F0nkyNinja
'@F0nkyNinja Heh... that is indeed a 'footstep' sound. It's the best I could come up with for the stoptime, which Joplin explains as stamping the heel of your foot without lifting the toe off the floor.'
Keeper1st, 2011
in reply to F0nkyNinja
'@F0nkyNinja Even in the U.S. this history is mostly forgotten. But yes, ragtime was the music of rebellious youth, so it and its dances were pretty much designed to shake up Victorian sensibilities. In many towns, ragtime and its dances were banned. My own home town had an anti-ragtime ordinance! I read a newspaper article from 1912 describing the first arrest made -- a bandleader who began to play a request, then was rushed by police. He tried to escape through a vent but they caught him.'
F0nkyNinja, 2011
in reply to Keeper1st
Thanks for the history lesson. I didn't know any of that. I suppose you could say it was the Rock'n'Roll of the early 20th century. As they say, if you ignore history, it's doomed to repeat itself.'
Keeper1st, 2011
in reply to opinionbug
...'As explained in the description, 'coon' at the time was as innocuous as 'redneck' is today. It wasn't actually racist; it referred only to a specific segment of the black population, which is why Joplin was perfectly comfortable using it. The song actually is extolling the virtues and civilized behavior among the black population, counter to the racism of the time. 'You are representatives of dark town's wealth,' he wrote.'
I disagree that the word 'coon' as Scott Joplin used it in 'Ragtime Dance' 'referred to a specific segment of the African-American population in the same way that 'redneck' refers to a specific segment of the white population.' While 'redneck' is a pejorative term that refers to poor Whites, my sense is that the first use of 'coon' in that song is similar to how 'brothers' is used today as a colloquial referent for Black men. Notice that Joplin wrote that 'the coons were in full dress alright [sic], And the girls were society belles'. My interpretation of those lyrics is that the brothers were dressed to kill (had on their best formal attire) and the sisters were attractive women who were part of the Black elite social class. The comparison of the word 'coons'-in this song- to 'rednecks' is further discounted by Joplin's lyrics that describe those in attendance at that dance as 'dark town swells', 'representatives of dark town's wealth'.
The second use of 'coon' in Scott Joplin's 'Ragtime Dance' - 'Ev'ry couple took their places all the coons had smiling faces' probably refers to both males and females and in that sense is like the contemporary use of the informal non-pejorative term 'Black folks'.
As to Joplin 'extolling the virtues and civilized behavior among the black population', I believe that he may indeed have been praising the Black elite but I regret that he did so while throwing shade -dissin' (insulting) lower income Black people with his line that 'So many colored folks there without a razor fight... 'Twas a great surprise to me.'
[Update April 16, 2015]
Keeper1st responded to my comment on that YouTube discussion thread by writing that the words in the introduction were written from a White person's perspective. Here's my reply:
'Thanks for your response.
I hadn't considered that the song's introduction & interlude (which also includes the word 'coon') could have been written as though a White person was commenting on that scene. Did White people attend Black dance events as observers and is this writing intros a White person's voice something that is found in other Black songs of that time?
I accept that explanation. I't helps make sense of that line that 'So many colored folks there without a razor fight... 'Twas a great surprise to me. '
However, it still seems to me that the person commenting in that song's intro and interlude considers 'coons' to be a referent for all of the Black people in attendance at that event and not a sub-set of Black folks like 'redneck' is a sub-set of White folks (i.e. poor White people). Note that the commentator describes those in attendance as being 'dark town swells' and 'society belles' and then says that 'Ev'ry couple took their places all the coons had smiling faces'
Of course that commentator may have been facetious when he (I presume that the commentator was male) used the descriptors 'dark town swells' and 'society belles), but I think he meant those who were in the upper echelon of Black society.
And, yes, I'm somewhat acquainted with the stereotype of 'coons' in 'coon songs' and elsewhere. My initial assumption that Scott Joplin was voicing those comments (as a Black man) isn't that surprising given the classism that existed and still exists among African Americans and given Ernest Hogan's composing 'All Coons Look Alike To Me' in 1896. Hogan later regretted composing that song, but the damage was done.'
Keeper1st, 2013
in reply to TheKnitwit09
'I think the Jennie Cooler and the Worlds Fair are lost to history -- maybe the Clean-Up Dance too.'
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Composition Year1899, rev.1906
Genre CategoriesRags; Dances; For piano; Scores featuring the piano; For 1 player; For 4 recorders (arr); Scores featuring the recorder (arr); For 4 players (arr); For oboe, clarinet, bassoon (arr); Scores featuring the oboe (arr); Scores featuring the clarinet (arr); Scores featuring the bassoon (arr); For 3 players (arr); For 2 clarinets, bass clarinet (arr); Scores featuring the bass clarinet (arr); For 2 clarinets, bassoon (arr)
  • 1Performances
    • 1.2Synthesized/MIDI
  • 2Sheet Music
    • 2.1Scores
    • 2.2Arrangements and Transcriptions




For 4 Recorders (Kemp)

About Press Copyright Contact us Creators Advertise Developers Terms Privacy Policy & Safety How YouTube works Test new features Press Copyright Contact us Creators. Title The rag time dance Contributor Names Joplin, Scott - 1868-1917 (composer). Scott Joplin was born in Arkansas in around 1867, just outside Texarkana, and was a street performer before settling in Sedalia, Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, and finally New York City where he died in 1917. He was an American composer and pianist, who achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was dubbed 'The King of Ragtime.' During his career, Joplin wrote over 40 original ragtime.

Synthesized Performance
*#656119 - 3.44MB - 3:58 - 0.0/10 (-) - !N/!N/!N - 22× - MP3 - Dadvid

PerformersSynthesized MIDI
Publisher Info.David Kemp, 2019.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0[tag/del]
Misc. NotesTranscribed for Recorders - 1 Soprano 1 Alto 1 Tenor 1 Bass

Sheet Music


Original version (1899)

Scott joplin the ragtime dance youtube

Complete Score
*#440659 - 0.57MB, 11 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - V/V/V- 352× - JamesBrigham

PDF scanned by Jeff Powell
JamesBrigham (2016/9/26)

Publisher. Info.St. Louis: John Stark & Son, 1902.
Public Domain[tag/del]
Misc. NotesReasonably good scan with some very slight marks.

Revised version (1906)

Complete Score
*#05453 - 0.27MB, 4 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - V/V/V- 11289× - Funper

Complete Score
*#69343 - 0.23MB, 4 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - V/V/V- 4199× - Aillemaco

EditorFirst edition
Publisher. Info.St. Louis: John Stark & Son, 1906. Plate 36-4.
Mineola: Dover Publications, 1988.
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Arrangements and Transcriptions

For 4 Recorders (Kemp)

Complete Score
*#619133 - 0.37MB, 5 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - !N/!N/!N- 133× - Dadvid

Complete Parts
*#619134 - 0.30MB, 8 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - !N/!N/!N- 64× - Dadvid

ArrangerDavid Edward Kemp
Publisher. Info.David Edward Kemp
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0[tag/del/mrg]
Misc. NotesInstrumentation: 1 Soprano 1 Alto 1 Tenor 1 Bass
Scott Joplin The Ragtime Dance
For Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon (Goodman)

Complete Score and Parts
*#613094 - 0.32MB, 10 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - !N/!N/!N- 143× - Roe.w.goodman

ArrangerRoe William Goodman (b. 1938)
Publisher. Info.Roe William Goodman
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0[tag/del]

Scott Joplin The Ragtime Dance Sheet Music

For 2 Clarinets and Bass Clarinet (Goodman)

Complete Score and Parts
*#613095 - 0.30MB, 10 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - !N/!N/!N- 101× - Roe.w.goodman

Scott Joplin Pineapple Rag

ArrangerRoe William Goodman (b. 1938)
Publisher. Info.Roe William Goodman
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0[tag/del]
For 2 Clarinets and Bassoon (Goodman)

Scott Joplin The Ragtime Dance Sheet Music

Complete Score and Parts
*#613096 - 0.92MB, 10 pp. - 0.0/10 (-) - !N/!N/!N- 70× - Roe.w.goodman

Scott joplin famous ragtime danceRagtime

Scott Joplin The Ragtime Dance Youtube

ArrangerRoe William Goodman (b. 1938)
Publisher. Info.Roe William Goodman
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0[tag/del]
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General Information

Work TitleThe Ragtime Dance
Alternative. TitleA Stop-Time Two Step
ComposerJoplin, Scott
I-Catalogue NumberI-Cat. No.ISJ 36
KeyB-flat major
Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp.1899, rev.1906
First Publication.1902, 1906
Composer Time PeriodComp. PeriodEarly 20th century
Piece StyleEarly 20th century
Instrumentationpiano, narration
External LinksWikipedia article

Navigation etc.

Originally published in 1902 for piano with narration (words, music and dance instructions all by Joplin). Although mentioned on page two the “complete directions for all the steps of the 'Ragtime Dance'” have not survived. This original edition sold poorly and four years later in 1906 a piano solo arrangement was created with its first strain taken from the second dance section of the 1902 song.