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Excluded from the mainstream vaudeville stage, black acts organized their own circuit, playing a handful of scattered venues across North America that catered to black audiences. While each revue featured dancers, comedians and magicians, the headlining acts were often blues singers-top names such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Nevertheless, the nature of the vaudeville circuit required performances to entertain audiences beyond merely singing; comedic elements and dance numbers were added, making vaudeville shows even more dynamic by keeping the crowd in stitches. Butterbeans and Susie, among the most successful of the blues vaudevillians, earned a reputation for their outlandish comedy routines, as well as for their blues duets.
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