As the 1940’s came to a close, men who had come home from fighting in World War II settled down to marry and raise a family, and the dances that they danced before the war slowly faded into obscurity. The next generation of teenagers that were coming of age in the 1950’s took what they knew of the swing era dances and incorporated it into all new styles. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous dances of the era.
Who doesn’t remember Dick Clark and the American Bandstand? Starting in 1952, American Bandstand began beaming its way onto television sets in homes across America. The daily soap operas ended at 3 pm, and American Bandstand perfectly filled the void between the soaps and the evening shows. Teens who were just arriving home from school could turn on the TV and see their peers dancing to the top hits of the day. Hosted by Dick Clark, the show featured Top 40 music and usually a guest act to perform (read: lip sync) one of their songs. This was the easiest and fastest way for teens across the country to learn new dances, and whatever dances appeared on the show, you could be sure they would be on the local dance floors the next week.
The Hand Jive
Sandy and Danny are to thank for the rise in popularity for this next fifties move. Probably the most popular dance of the 1950’s with no small thanks to the hit musical and movie “Grease,” The Hand Jive was a “dance” that according to legend was invented in the basement of a coffee bar in London. The room was apparently so crowded that the kids didn’t have enough room to dance to the music, so they had to hand jive. There were many songs that used the name hand jive in the title, but none so popular as Johnny Otis’ 1958 song “Willie and the Hand Jive.”
The Bop is more of a solo dance than a partner dance, it can be thought of as swing dancing without touching your partner.
The Cha Cha
Derived from Puerto Rican and Cuban dances, the Cha Cha is probably the most long-lasting dance from this era, as you can still find people dancing the Cha Cha in clubs today.
A semi-complicated line dance, the Madison is a group dance with different steps that everyone moves to at the same time. When done correctly it is an impressive sight to see. This dance had many variations at the time, mostly differing by region.
Initially seen as quite scandalous, Rock-N-Roll dancing became popular despite the fact that it was usually done alone rather than with a partner. It incorporated dances like the Twist (made famous by Chubby Checker’s song of the same name), the Alligator, The Mashed Potato, and the Hully Gully.
We would love to hear from you! Tell us about your favorite fifties dances!