The Cakewalk

 The Cakewalk was originated when slaves imitated their white masters doing ballroom dance. This dance was their form of satire. The slaves would dance as couples starting with the men in the middle and the women around them in a square. They would high step and strut to lively Ragtime tunes and the slave owners would judge them based on the elegance of the men, the grace of the women, and the creativity of the couple as one. In the end, the winner was rewarded with a large decorated cake.  Most slave owners would not have rewarded their slaves for imitating them, and they probably did not recognize they were being imitated. However, the cakewalk was a pastime the slave owners enjoyed. Cakewalk is where the phrases “piece of cake” and “that takes the cake” derived.

     The Cakewalk was done in many minstrel-shows which is coincidentally where a lot of Ragtime music was played. Ragtime was influenced by African American banjo styles and syncopated dance rhythms of the cakewalk. The two were usually coupled together because they had similarities in origin and influence.

   The Cakewalk reached peak popularity in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Today we don’t see this exact version of cakewalk. It is considered more of a carnival game that compares a little too musical chairs except the winner has a number and wins a cake.