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Boogie Shoes

Yikes! That’s not from the 1930s!!!

And yet, that first line expresses Harold’s sentiments perfectly.

In the late twenties and early thirties, there seemed to be two main pastimes: dancing and going to the pictures (and even the picture shows featured dancing). Practically every little town hosted a Friday or Saturday night dance… in the armory, in a barn, at a local church, wherever space allowed.

Imagine how that would be for a fella with two left feet! Especially since Rose loves to dance. Poor Harold. Even the “simple” dances of the era–foxtrot, waltz, castle walk–were challenging. But that didn’t stop him. If dancing was what Rose wanted, well…

He had been practicing the Lindy Hop for weeks now, in the barn, while Queenie looked on chewing her cud, but his sessions there had not prepared him for the melee that ensued now on the dance floor. Men jockeyed for position, looking for a bit of open real estate on which to twirl, flip, or sling their partner, and body parts flailed wildly about them.

That should have deterred him, but rather he found the ruckus oddly liberating. He pointed Rose toward an opening, slung her out and back just as he’d practiced with the broom, turned roughly ninety degrees and repeated the maneuver, his own feet stomping out the patterns he’d memorized.

He kept his eyes fixed on Rose, her eyes wide with amazement—or was that fear? His arms and legs were performing splendidly: right, left, swingout, return; left, right, swingout, return. Until he decided to try a spin.

He gave Rose a mighty twirl, until, like the prop on Lindy’s plane, she took off flying across the floor, bowling over everyone in her wake.

I’m pretty certain Harold is wondering where he might find a pair of those Boogie Shoes.

Popular Dances of the Era

(the dance name links to a video of how the dance is done)

  • Balboa – a swing dance that originated in Southern California during the 1920s (though it may have started as early as 1915) and enjoyed huge popularity during the 1930s and 1940s. The term Balboa originally referred to a dance characterized by its close embrace and full body connection. [1]
  • Baltimore Buzz – more of a song with a dance, than a dance unto itself. [2]
  • Black Bottom [sorry, no sound with this one and you have to advance to 25s to get past the long intro slide, but it’s the best example of the couple’s dance; hear the song here (while you enjoy some flapper pix)] – became popular in the 1920s; it was danced solo or by couples and became a national craze after it’s performance in 1926 by Ann Pennington, a star of the Ziegfeld Follies. [3]
  • Castle Walk – this dance is a bit older, having been introduced by Irene & Vernon Castle in the mid-1910s; it involved mainly walking, but with some more complicated moves thrown in. [4]
  • Charleston – say “Roaring Twenties” and this is the dance that everyone thinks of; the truth is, though, it reached its peak popularity towards the end of that decade. [5]
  • Foxtrot [but the youngsters in the crowd are doing a dance called the Collegiate] – this dance was originally called the “Bunny Hug”; while it was developed in the 1910s, the foxtrot reached its height of popularity 30s, and remains practiced today. [6] (I also learned that it is essentially the same steps used for the Texas Two Step!)
  • Grizzly Bear – first introduced to Broadway audiences by Fanny Brice in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910, the dance was rough and clumsy. [7] Somehow, I think Harold might have been able to do this dance.
  • Lindy Hop – a brand new song introduced with the song recorded on May 25, 1927; it doesn’t reach peak popularity until the late 30s. [8]

 

2 thoughts on “Boogie Shoes

  1. I would have been such a sad wallflower back then! On the other hand, were there maybe more group dances? I think I might have been okay in a big group all dancing together. Or not — I can’t even keep up with a line dance!

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    • No line dances that I’ve uncovered thus far. Group dancing would have been more in line with the early 1800s when they had those lined up affairs with guys on one side, girls on the other and they walked up to each other, made a little bow, walked around each other, then shifted one to repeat with the next person in line. Those dances had little pressure, I think.

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