Some Favorite 50s Dances
Author: Sherril Steele-Carlin
It's funny how dance crazes come and go. Some it seems, like swing and jive, will never really go out of style. During the 50s, there were several dances that were "it" at the school prom, the high school homecoming dance, and anywhere a band could play a tune. So, now's the time to kick back the rug, remember some of those old dances and how to do them with us. Put on a record on the record machine and have yourself a sock hop!
The Bop. When you dance the bop, you usually dance separately from your partner. It's a lot like jive or swing, but there's a lot of toe tapping involved, and you don't hold hands. Usually you alternately tape the heel and toe of either foot as you dance. The Bop is still popular in many dance clubs and events, and is especially popular in many areas of England.
The Stroll. The Stroll was often done only by girls, but that isn't a "rule" in this classic 50s dance. The Stroll is basically two lines of dancers with a large space in the middle. Lead dancers are on one side, their partners 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 dance continues this way through the music. The Stroll was one of the most popular dances of the 50s, and many nostalgic 50s movies feature a scene featuring The Stroll.
Swing. Swing was popular during the 50s, it was a holdover from the 40s jitterbug and swing. Swing is one of the few dances of the fifties that is still practiced today, and still inspires many young people to learn how to dance.
The Hand Jive. "Oh Can You Hand Jive?" If you danced during the 50s, chances are you still remember the Hand Jive; in fact, you probably can't get it out of your head all these years later. This is one dance you can even do sitting down, as that famous dance scene in the film "Grease" shows! Basically, the dance is 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.
The Cha Cha. Although the Cha Cha first appeared in 1949 or so, it really hit its stride in the 1950s, when it became quite a popular nightclub dance. The Cha Cha is a blend of two Latin American dances, the Puerto Rican Danzonette and the Cuban Danzon, and evolved into many different forms of Cha Cha here in the U.S.
Rock and Roll. Of course, by the end of the 50s, rock and roll was making news all over America, and dance was changing. Partners no longer danced together, but gyrated to the powerful beat on their own. Swing and The Bop gave way to 60s dance crazes like the Twist, the Mashed Potato, and the Hully Gully, but that's another story!
Sherril Steele-Carlin is a freelance writer and researcher in Reno, Nevada. Her work has appeared in numerous national publications including American Profile, Highways, Pool & Spa, and many more.
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