Yesteryear’s Memories: “My Dance Card is Full”

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That was a popular line from Victorian times when guys signed up to dance with the popular ladies — once the card was full, the eligible suitors were just outta luck.

Speaking about today’s times, though, it seems to me that dancing is declining. There was the Charleston in the 20s, swing dancing and the Jitterbug, the Twist and Disco. All were the hottest thing at the time, and as soon as one disappeared there was another to take its place. There used to be a dance floor in every little bar and even in restaurants with a juke box. Dancing was everywhere. Now there are still proms and weddings and get-togethers, but they seem to be less about dancing and more about everything else.

I guess it has something to do with the fact that there are fewer bands, too. When the Beatles first came to the U.S., every schoolboy (and some schoolgirls) wanted to start a band. There were at least five of my classmates who began learning to play the guitar (I was one of them) and everybody had a transistor radio glued to their ear. Some even had an earphone plugged in during class if they were brave. Music was huge and teenagers everywhere wanted to be in a band and be famous. There were dances like the Swim, the Mashed Potato, the Monster Mash and the Watusi. Who remembers line dancing and the Hustle? Yeah, there are still remnants around but it just isn’t the same. Even dance schools are disappearing.

Disco was in a class all its own. I don’t remember any dance craze bigger — and it was of course spurred on by the movies and popular culture. John Travolta was known everywhere. Grease and Saturday Night Fever were monumental. Movies and TV were full of dancing in the past. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were practically national heroes. But there was something else.

I think that folks were more people-oriented then. It was a time when people said hello to each other on the street. When the neighbor kids ran through your yard, you knew their names and their parents’ names. You knew the name of your mail carrier, and maybe even the garbage man. Not so anymore. People don’t have personal contact like they used to. Even dating has gone from meeting someone at the local burger joint to swiping left until you find a pretty face or a handsome jawline. Dancing? What does that have to do with meeting someone?

It makes me a little sad to watch how people don’t acknowledge each other, speak or even shake hands anymore. When was the last time you heard that there was a square dance in town? It used to be a huge part of our culture. Communist China doesn’t allow traditional dances to be held — you can go to prison for participating in traditional culture. Of course they would never allow a lot of our music, either. I guess that’s why we never saw a Beijing breakdance team. Interesting how a government can slowly take control over people’s everyday lives. It kind of reminds me of the American people being told just a couple years ago that we can’t get together and we can’t even laugh. Scary.

All in all, I think people should get together more. Dancing is good exercise and it’s good for your mental outlook. I think maybe I’ll take lessons on the Frug, East Coast Swing dance, and the Loco-motion, but I’ll be more careful. Last time, it didn’t go so well. They told me to bring my knees up higher and lean forward. Unfortunately, that’s just how I roll.



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