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Dance in the 1930s

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Lucy Ayala

on 20 May 2014

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Transcript of Dance in the 1930s

Because of the Great Depression, many turned to dance as an escape.
A popular, new form of jazz had emerged called "swing" in the 1920s and 1930s (Edmondson). In fact, the word "swing" was originally used to describe a form of jazz music (Edmondson).
Swing's dance origins can be traced back to the dance moves of the African American community in the late 1800s (Edmondson). African Americans had a huge impact in dance during this time, inventing most of the dance variations in swing.
In the 1920s, the African American community discovered the Charleston and the Lindy Hop, types of swing dances, while dancing to jazz music (Edmondson). These swing dances are some of the many that carried on into the 1930s.
The Swing Era
Dance in the 1930s
Popular Forms of Entertainment in the 1930s: Dance

Dancing Marathons
Swing Time
A getaway from the Great Depression, dance was a joyful activity that helped people of the 1930s get through everyday life. Dance in the 1930s was heavily influenced by African American dances to jazz music. Eventually, a new style of dance with many variations emerged called swing. With the sudden emergence of swing and the dance popularity, many towns of America held Dance Marathons that people of the Great Depression entered more notably for the prize money. In addition to the Great Depression, the 1930s was surely a time of booming dance activity.
Types of Swing Dances
As mentioned before, there were many types of swing dances popular in the 1930s. Here are a few of the many that flourished in the 1930s:
Lindy Hop

Dance Marathons were an American Phenomenon in the 1920s and 1930s. They were endurance contests that started with the depression when many people used dance as an easy form of entertainment (Becker). Some of the longest dance marathons could last for up to three months! Dance Marathon competitions sometimes offered very large quantities of money to the winners (Becker). Many people such as "local hopefuls and seasoned professional marathoners" would enter these competitions to win the money, especially since the Great Depression was occurring (Becker). People would dance, walk, shuffle, or sprint. They did whatever they could to win these intense competitions. Sometimes they would even take turns supporting each other so that they could rest and then start dancing again (Becker).
"Danced completely in closed position, pure Balboa evolved in conservative dance halls where space was limited" ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). Balboa dancing involves two people standing close together with an upright posture ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). There is no spins or turns within the partners, but the only movement is step variations that generally follow the rhythm of the music and only go from the knee downwards ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). Overall, the Balboa is a fairly simple dance that is suited for fast tempo music.
The Charleston has been traced back to African Americans who lived on an island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, giving it the name "Charleston" ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). It had been performed in black communities since 1903, but did not become internationally popular until the musical that featured the dance,
Runnin' Wild
, debuted in 1923 ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances").
The dance can be done by yourself, with a partner, or in a group. To begin the dance, one first moves the right foot back one step and then kicks backwards with the left foot while the right arm moves forward ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). Then both feet and arms are replaced to the start position and the right foot kicks forwards while the right arm moves backwards; this is done with a little hop in between steps ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances").
Lindy Hop
The Lindy Hop originated in the late 1920s, and its popularity carried on to the 1930s as well. In fact, the Lindy Hop was known as the "Jitterbug" in the 1930s ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). It was danced to fast duple meter music and was characterized by "breakaways" in which partners in a couple separated and improvised steps individually ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). Additionally, the partners could swing each other around acrobatically ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances"). The Lindy Hop was popular until about the 1950s and can be characterized as "American's National Folk Dance" ("Step into Swing-Types of Dances").
Introduction to 1930s Dance
Swing Time - Rogers and Astaire
Swing Time was a popular comedy film in the mid-1930s featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (Dirks). It was one of the most popular dance musicals of its time (Dirks). It featured a series of dances and a broad array of music that was pleasing to viewers (Dirks). This clip is only a small portion of the wide range of dance and music used in this movie.
Works Cited
Becker, Paula. "Dance Marathons of the 1920s and 1930s." HistoryLink.org

Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. N.p., 25 Aug. 2003. Web. 13

May 2014. <http://www.historylink.org/


Dirks, Tim. "Swing Time (1936)." AMC Filmsite. American Movie Classics

Company LLC. Web. 16 May 2014. <http://www.filmsite.org/swin.html>.

Edmondson, Steve. "One Legend of the Origin of Swing." Lindy Hop in Rocket

City. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://daffy.uah.edu/lindy/index.html>.

"Province Stops Marathon Dance." Fort Eerie Times 17 Aug. 1928. Fort Eerie

Times. Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.focb.net/local-lore.php>.

"Step into Swing - Types of Dances." Step into Swing. Step into Swing, 2007.

Web. 15 May 2014. <http://www.stepintoswing.com/dances/>.

Swing Time. Dir. George Stevens. Perf. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Radio

Pictures, 1936. Youtube.com. 23 July 2007. Web. 15 May 2014. <https://

Out of many forms of entertainment used in the early 90s, dance was a very popular one. Dance was used often to get people's minds off of life's many stresses during the Great Depression. Especially around the 1930's, the dance industry was booming with many new dances as ways of entertainment. Dance started becoming such a trend that people would dance for days, or even months, at a time in the popular "dance marathons." People loved to dance, and they still do. Dance has been and always will be an important part of human culture.
As seen in the article, dancing marathons could sometimes be very dangerous. Putting yourself and others in danger could lead to serious consequences such as imprisonment. "
The dance was discontinued under Section 222 of the Criminal Code which reads to the effect that persons are guilty of an indictable offence and liable to one year's imprisonment or a fine who commit a common nuisance endangering the lives, health or welfare of the public" (
"Province Stops Marathon Dance"). This meant that the exhaustion the marathons caused endangered the health of the participants.

However, this stop to the marathon lead to arguments as to who would get the prize money. When the marathon was stopped, there were still three couples left dancing. They took the peaceful route and divided the money evenly, but there could have been a major fight that broke out ("Province Stops Marathon Dance"). When authorities got involved in these dance marathons, it tended to end badly.
Consequences of Dance Marathons
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