Friday, April 10, 2009

"The hideous writhings and wigglings of the Huggie Bear or Argentine Tango"

Continuing the things-found-while-researching series (to see the others, click on the 'historical bycatch' tag), today's offering is a dispatch from a now-forgotten front in the War to Maintain Decency:




The advent of the ‘Turkey Trot’ dance has sounded the death knell of ballroom hooliganism, for hostesses are declaring war on freak dances.

For several months they have been watching the growth of the new style of dancing with suspicious eyes.

First the sinuous sway of the Boston supplanted the sober pleasures of the time-honoured waltz, and then came the kangaroo-like measures of the Argentine Tango and Dandy Dance, which turned the ballrooms into veritable bear gardens.

Hostesses suffered all these innovations in silence, but now the “Turkey Trot” has made its appearance there has been a general revolt, and they have declared that tangoes and trots alike shall be forbidden for the future.

“‘Beastly dances’ is the only suitable way of describing them,” said Mr. R. M. Crompton, vice-president of the International Union of Dance Teachers’ Societies, to an “Express” representative on Saturday.

“No words are too strong to condemn the hideous writhings and wigglings of the Huggie Bear or Argentine Tango,” he continued, “and to see our young people bouncing about imitating the cries of a turkey in the ‘Turkey Trot,’ is a deplorable spectacle.

“The reason these dances have become so popular is that they are so easy to learn. The one step, for instance, would be much more appropriately named if it were called the ‘no-step’ for the dancer can do almost any weird and unconventional steps he likes.”

The “Turkey Trot,” which was first introduced by Oscar and Suzette at the Hippodrome, seems to have few friends, for Oscar had nothing to say in its favour when interviewed by an “Express” representative.

“Personally I think it is a hideous dance,” he said: “in fact, I do not think it can be called a dance at all, but the public wish to see these extraordinary dances, so, of course, I dance them.

“I am inundated with letters from people who long to perform the Argentine Tango, and am giving lessons every day.”

“The Boston and one-step have undoubtedly affected the popularity of the two-step and waltz, but I expect freak dances will be short-lived.”

Inquiries at various dancing schools showed that the freak dances are being completely banned by most hostesses and the objectionable movements are never taught.



By Pearl Humphry

The new dances are an orgy of vulgarity, and will kill dancing in England if allowed to go unchecked.

If the London County Council were favoured with a private view of a modern dance they would be chagrined at being unable to refuse a licence.

Fresh young girls are taught a set of expurgated steps which high spirits and the example of their partners soon release from the slight restraint which the dancing master has thought well to lend them.

They swoop and curve their bodies about, clutch their partners in a close embrace, and allow themselves to be hauled about in a manner which would not only have startled our much-quoted grandparents, but even shocked the liberal minded chaperon of to-day.

The hostess of the moment is in a difficult position. What is a woman to do who invites her friends to a dance, provides them with waltz, two-step and one-step music, and then finds them indulging in all kinds of steps which at the best are ugly and eccentric, and at the worst make her blood cold and her cheeks hot?

Is she to say: “Stop! I will not have this”? Her interpretation of the laws of hospitality forbids this. She can only conclude that she had better not give another dance.

On even the most ordinary grounds the new dances are to be objected to, as they seriously inconvenience other dancers. A couple waltzing will find themselves sent flying by a clucking, swooping young woman or a young man who bears his body before him and his hands behind his head in an attitude which no negro could recognise.

Or a pair will step down the room opposite each other, staring in each other’s eyes with an expression of ferocious hatred. At the most unexpected moment the girl will fling herself bodily into the man’s arms; he clutches her round the shoulders—the movements are best described by any realistic French novelist.

A hostess sees some of her guests, perhaps even her daughters, light-heartedly behaving like a set of drunken women from Montmartre. What can she do but refuse to give any more dances? It seems the only remedy.

(Daily Express, Monday, 19 February 1912, p. 8)

And here, a related post from the archives.

1 comment:

headbang8 said...

Hideous writhings and orgies of vulgarity. How does one score an invitation?