Dance trends change fast. How do you keep up with it all? Before you sign up for dance classes, take our quiz and see how well you know the backstory of popular party dances.
There’s a lot of history to know. Social dance — dancing with a partner or with others as part of a group— responds to shifts in music, technology and culture.
Did you know that the waltz once scandalized American society? It introduced the closed embrace position in which the woman was held in the man’s arms. Shocking!
Then in the early 20th century, African-American musicians developed ragtime, which then fueled the fox-trot, a dance craze that brought couples closer still—as in the steamy sequences of “Dirty Dancing.”
The Lindy Hop, born in 1930’s Harlem, represented one of the first dances in which whites and blacks, until then largely segregated, cut loose at the same venue, the Savoy Ballroom. Against the background of the Depression, then the Second World War, the highly exuberant—and often acrobatic—dance evolved, staying popular into the 1940’s and 50’s. (And it’s making a comeback: Check out the documentary “Alive and Kicking.”)
By mid-century, Latin-American band leaders introduced music based variously on Spanish, African, and Caribbean rhythms, including the mambo, a merger of swing and rumba, the cha-cha, and merengue, as well as the Afro-Brazilian samba.
And then: Enter rock and roll. Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and the Beatles had widespread effect on society and culture — and dance changed forever, too, when the twist abandoned the closed embrace position. Partners danced without physical contact.
The whole-body movement of the twist, and the Frug, Swim, Watusi, among others, performed by teenagers to hits from “Top 40” radio charts, reached new, wider audiences through television shows such as “American Bandstand” and, later, “Soul Train,” which ushered in funk and hip-hop.
The 1977 movie “Saturday Night Fever” made a star of John Travolta and launched the mania for disco dance. Another Travolta vehicle, “Urban Cowboy” brought the spotlight to Western line dancing.
Now, with the internet ruling our life and culture, we can see dance happening everywhere and anywhere — from the urban street to flash mobs.
So let’s see what you’ve got — on the dance floor and dance-floor knowledge!