Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wanna Dance?

Here’s a subject we haven’t really concentrated on so far. Dancing. Now, don’t even try to tell me that you didn’t dance. Everyone did. Some of us guys only liked to slow dance because, well, we didn’t want to look foolish, and we wanted to get a little closer to all you cute girls. And slow dancing allowed that a lot easier than that crazy fast dancing that was so popular. So, let’s take a look at what we had to pick from.

During the 50s, there were several dances that were popular at the prom, the high school homecoming dance, or the many sock hops the schools had in those days. Maybe they still do, but I’m way out of the loop at this point. Here’s a list. See how many you remember. And if the mood strikes you, crank up that phonograph and find those old 45s and dance the night away the way we used to. But make certain you've waited at least an hour after you've eaten your SPAM.

The Bop. Not a slow dance. You usually dance separately from your partner. It's a little like jive or swing with a lot of toe tapping involved. And you don't hold hands. You just tap the heel and toe of either foot alternately as you dance. The Bop is still popular in many dance clubs and events. It’s still very popular in many areas of England.

The Stroll. Again, this is not a slow dance. This dance was often done only by the girls, but that isn't a necessarily a hard and fast rule. Just ask John Travolta. This dance involves two lines of dancers with a large space between the lines. Lead dancers are on one side, and their partners are on the other. Dancers do a step pattern to advance the line, and leaders do a solo routine though the line, joining it at the end. The Stroll was one of the most popular dances of the 50s, and many nostalgic 50s movies feature a scene featuring the Stroll.

Swing. This is not a slow dance either. But you did get a little closer to your partner and you were allowed to hold hands. Swing was a holdover from the 40s jitterbug and swing, though still popular during the 50s. It’s one of the few dances of the fifties that is still practiced today, especially among the younger crowds who like the older dances.

The Hand Jive. If you danced during the 50s, chances are you still remember the Hand Jive. This is one dance you can even do sitting down. Just ask John Travolta again. It’s basically nothing more than a series of hand and arm movements done in a pattern. The song "Willy and the Hand Jive" came out in 1958 and stayed at the top of the charts for 16 weeks, so if you were anybody in 1958, then baby, you can hand jive.

The Madison. The Madison first started in the late 1950s and gained popularity in the 1960s. This dance was a little more complicated, and it was done in a group, rather than by a couple. There were several dance sequences with specific steps, and some of the sequences referred to some very popular television shows of the time, like Jackie Gleason. I have no memory of this dance whatsoever, although I do remember Jackie Gleason.

The Make It Up as You Go. (I’m talking to the guys now, if any of you are still reading.) This was what a lot of us did, if we ever got up the nerve to ask that adorable little gal on the other side of the gymnasium to dance. We always had that fear that we would walk all the way over there and ask her, only to be greeted with a smile, a shake of the head, and a no thank you. Rats! But if ever were lucky enough to get a yes, we really had no idea what we were doing when we got out on the floor. So we just looked around and watched everyone else and tried to mimic their moves. Eventually we developed our own style that we felt comfortable with. Even if it looked stupid, we didn't realize it at the time.
By the way, I've picked a great Jackie Wilson video for you today. Lonely Teardrops. A big hit in the fifties and one that I'm sure will bring back some memories of those dancing days. Enjoy.

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