Photography by Jaclyn Locke
By Ashley Browne
Few things so fully and succinctly encapsulate the particular L’air Du Temps of a generation as a good dance craze. Trends and modes in dance are highly effective cultural indicators and grant considerable insight into the collective mindset of a decade and its youth. Dance is one of those rare things that bring people together to share common experiences and sentiments. Below are a few crazes from past decades that got people out of their seats and onto the dance floor, at least for a little while.
The fifties were all about the newly independent teenager. For the first time, teens eschewed the music of their parents and created a separate cultural space that was to be the sole province of the young. Swing and The Bop, like most successful dance crazes were all about rebellion. James Dean, AM radio, television and most importantly the popularization of rock ’n roll were perfect catalysts for new and radical attitudes and styles of dance. Rock was about dancing, it was about, love and gyration and most of all it was all about the kids.
The sixties weren’t all about free love and Woodstock; they were also about a modernist utopian future complete with miniskirts and scooters. Go-Go dancing and Mod (short for modern) clothing swept the bedrooms of teenagers and the dance clubs of London in the early sixties before hitting the shores of North America in 1963. The Pony, the Crow, the Boomerang and the Jerk were all province of the “Mods” in a reaction to the overt emotionalism of rock music from the late fifties and early sixties. Officially there was a new brand of cool courtesy of these Brits.
In the seventies Disco was king for a day and thusly became the soundtrack, and dance craze, for a generation for whom Studio 54 was church and the Bee Gees the prophets. The Hustle was the dance craze that is so often associated with the Disco movement. For a time it seemed as though just about everyone was “doing the hustle”. It moved in quickly and burned out just as fast, but not without leaving its mark on pop culture of the twentieth century.
On March 25, 1983 the world was witness to a dance move so indelible it really needs no introduction. The Moonwalk. It was a dance craze that settled nicely into a signature move for the then still young singer (Michael Jackson, you may have heard of him) who would become the cultural icon of a generation. Though very few were able to successfully replicate the hallowed dance move, nearly everyone tried.
If the Bee Gees were the prophets of disco in the seventies Madonna was the high priestess of dance music in the nineties. With one song and one word (Vogue) she brought the underground New York scene into suburban living rooms. With Vogue, Madonna pushed boundaries and buttons and made it ok to celebrate our differences all while “striking a pose”.
In the twenty-first century, so far, R&B and Hip Hop music has ruled supreme. And there remains little doubt that a large part of its success is due to the sensation known as Beyoncé. The song “Single Ladies” created a dance craze that almost defined the term “viral” as everyone from toddlers to grandparents shared their version of the dance on You Tube. Single Ladies created a dialogue over the internet that has become the framework for conversations between a generation of musical artists and their fans and it doesn’t seem like that dialogue is going anywhere anytime soon.