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How Do I Re-Create Dances From the 1950s?

Swing dancers often wear period-inspired clothing and incorporate flips, dips and tosses into their dances.
Some dances from the 1950s are still popular today.
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  • Written By: Lori Spencer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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In the 1950s, teens often congregated after school to drink soda pop, spin records, also known as "platters," and learn the latest dances. They would show off their moves at the local Sock Hop, an informal dance event that was usually held in the high school gym; to avoid scratching up the gymnasium's varnished floor, students were ordered to take off their shoes. US music and culture had a strong influence around the world in the 1950s, as different types of music flourished during this decade, and advances in technology made that music more easily available. Popular dances included the limbo, the twist, the slop, and the Lindy hop, all of which can be re-created by listening to the music of the era and studying the moves.

The old style of couples dancing cheek-to-cheek was quickly replaced by dances tailored to the individual, putting more physical distance between the partners. Sometimes a dance required no partner at all. Group dancing was also a hot fad, which paved the way for modern-day line dancing. The music teenagers loved dancing to included swing, jump blues, and boogie-woogie. Rhythm and blues, and an emerging new sound called rock 'n' roll, were also becoming popular to dance to during this era.

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Some dances from the 1950s have endured and are still popular today. Swing dancing has proven to be the most durable, and is still as exciting to watch now as it was more than half a century ago. Swing dancers perform spectacular dips, slides and spins, with the male sometimes tossing his female partner high into the air or swinging her around by her arms and legs. Annual swing dancing competitions attract professional and semi-pro dancers from around the world.

One of the most widespread dances from the 1950s was "the stroll," a group dance in which two lines of dancers form, leaving a large space in the middle. Lead dancers will "stroll" down the center while those in line do a step pattern until eventually everyone gets takes a turn strolling down the aisle. Another group dance, "the Madison," was quite a bit more complex. This line dance featured several different dance sequences and was based on a six count chorus step. The stroll and the Madison are featured in several movies.

Dances from the 1950s such as "the bop" and "the hand jive" are often performed without a partner. While the bop involves some some alternating heel-toe taps and fancy footwork, the hand jive is done entirely with the hands and arms. Since the hand jive only requires movement from the waist up, it can be executed while sitting down. The hand jive is a series of coordinated gestures in rhythmic succession.

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