The Dance of the Decade; Dance Until You Drop, Dance Marathons

     The new music and dances were fast and energetic, like the optimistic new era of the Roaring 20s. Dancing was an escape to release stress and pent up emotions created by the restricted lifestyles of the public by the war effort.
     Ragtime was popular during and after the war, and flourished because it went well with new music tempos. There were old favorites such as the Waltz and the Foxtrot and new favorites like the Tango and the Charleston. These new songs, music, and dances didn't appeal to the older generation as it did for the youth. It seemed immoral and corrupt to them. Jazz especially was a "crime" because of the nightclubbing and parties that were associated with it. The new style of dancing was shocking. The Waltz and the Tango were considered scandalous because they involved physical body contact between partners. This new dance generation incorporated the upper torso, throwing arms and legs in the air with reckless hopping and "toddling" for the first time. A new F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby, illustrated the lifestyle of the youth at this time.
     Dancing also affected how women dressed. This energetic dancing required flexible and free clothes. The tight corsets, large puffed sleeves, and the long skirts of the Victorian Era were used much less ever since this new style of dance arose. Flappers danced with their beautiful knees, crossing their hands, and let their beads fly everywhere. There was a new generation of dances incorporating swaying, hugging, and dancing to new rhythms, and more body contact started.
     Many people were influenced by the new dances they saw in Hollywood movies, and practiced them to phonograph records or to radio broadcasts before going out to nightclubs, dance floors, or school gymnasiums. Soon there were magazines and books on dancing, related social activities, and dance schools that taught all the latest dace crazes, which became very popular. Tangos, Foxtrots, Camel Walks, and the Square Dance became popular and were heavily promoted by Henry Ford.
     Dancing became a major part of entertainment that was popular for all age groups and was the most important thing to every party! Schools taught children how to dance and churches held dances to attract young people. Parents sent their children for tap dancing and ballet. Dance Marathon competitions became a very popular fad in the 1920s and took place every week. The longest recorded was 3 weeks of dancing!
     Below are some nice visuals such as pictures and videos of popular dances, and a short description and some information about the dance.
A 1920s ad for a Christmas Dance!


     Suggested Music:
"Charleston,"     "Ain't We Got Fun,"    
"Toot Toot Tootsie,"     "Yes Sir! That's My Baby"

1.  Place feet together
2.  Right foot - Step back
3.  Left foot - Kick back
4.  Left foot - Step forward to beginning position
5.  Right foot - Kick forward
6.  Return to beginning position and repeat


1.  Hold arms out, bend elbows, point hands up
2.  Swing arms from elbows to right and then to left
Combine feet and arm movements
Charleston Dance Poster -- the grandfather of all swing dances
Dance Marathons, also called Walkathons, had become a huge fad in the 1920s that lasted into the 30s, which tested human endurance in which a dance couple danced for hours, days, even weeks! Couples would compete for a money prize. It originated in the early 20s along with other new fads along like flagpole sitting and six day bicycle races. There was a 25 cent admission for people who would like to watch as long as they pleased.

The Charleston was introduced to the public by the Ziegfield Follies of 1923, an all black cast of African Americans in a Broadway musical, "Running Wild." The Charleston dance was characterized by outward heel kicks with and up and down movement by bending and straightening the knees in the rhythm of the music.

Running Wild^^ referred to above

The 1920s and 30s Lindy Hop was named after Charles Lindbergh's feat of flying trans-Atlantic solo. This was the first dance to include swinging and jumping into the air with a dance partner. As you can see, this dance was very energetic and upbeat.

The Breakaway was originally only danced by African Americans in Harlem. It was originally a syncopated with two-steps. The couple would split or breakaway from each other still holding hands, performing a solo of the same rhythm/beat and then come back together again. As the Charleston grew in popularity, the Breakaway did as well, because they soon merged. As Harlem grew, the Breakaway too.

Old favorites like the Waltz and the Foxtrot remained popular because of people like Arthur Murray, who ran dance schools and published "how to" books on all the popular dances of the time.

The Tango and the Charleston boosted in popularity when movie stars like Rudolph Valentino and Joan Crawford were featured in movies dancing to it.

Black Bottom was a jazz dance which combined shoulder and hip movements, most notably the syncopated rhythms, crouched torsos, pelvic movements, and bending knees. This dance was danced by African Americans in the South in 1902. It became a craze across the nation when it appeared in a modernized version in a Broadway musical in 1926.