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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

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The History of Club Dancing

The history of club dancing goes back to the mid to late 1970s, and has continued to evolve ever since. From Ibiza to Paris, from San Francisco to New York, dance has been a part of the club scene. As long as there is music in the clubs, there will be dancing.  

The Clubs 
According to, the history of the club dates back to before WWII. The French had dance clubs called discotheques, but when the Nazis invaded, they took over clubs and outlawed certain types of music, such as swing and jazz. This was due to the American, Jewish and African American influences on those styles. When the war was over, discotheques went underground, becoming very secretive and hard to find. Patrons usually learned of them via word of mouth. As time passed, the concept of the discotheque was brought to New York, and it became the realm of the elite. One hundred dollar entry fees and yearly dues kept out anyone but the wealthy, and going to a club became a badge of upper class living. Fortunately, that changed during the late sixties, when Richard Burton's first ex-wife, Sybil Burton, used her divorce settlement to open her own club, Arthur. She purposely designed it as the antithesis of the discotheque; fashion and spirit were required to get in, not just money. 

The Dances 
Dances were, and still are, invented by teens, later discarded, and then picked up by the adults. According to, a perfect example of this is the Twist. Teens in the late fifties created the dance, but by the time Kennedy's term ended, everyone from socialites to senior citizens were doing it. Many different dances appeared in rapid succession; The Jerk (not to be confused with 2008's jerk dance), the Hitchhiker, the Bug, among others. Most of these dances were fairly easy to do. The Jerk was simply bending and crossing the arms; the Hitchhiker used the thumbs as if "hitching" for a ride; and in the Bug, the dancer pretended to itch and scratch, passing the "infestation" along to another dancer. All of these dances could be found in the club scene, and contests were often held to see who could best do a specific dance. Winners would often get trophies, but even if they did not, they had the respect and esteem of their peers--until the next contest.
The Music
Club music really started to change in the mid to late 1970s. According to the website, it was around that time that house music, named for its appearance at The Warehouse club, became popular. House had its roots in black and Latino music, and part of what made it so popular was that the DJs would play 15 hours of music in a row without a break. The music was loud, pulsating, and full of energy. This kept people dancing, literally, all night long.

The Drugs
According to, drugs have been a part of the club dance scene since the days of the French discotheque. In the early days, most clubgoers chose cocktails or hard liquor. During the days of Andy Warhol, speed was shot or consumed. In the 60s, the drug of choice among dancers was LSD. In the 70's, participants took poppers (an amphetamine), quaaludes (a depressant), and cocaine. All of these drugs were chosen to enhance the dance experience for those who took them. Some, like poppers and cocaine, helped participants dance for hours without fatigue.

Club Dancing Today
Today's clubs are much more varied than they were in the past. Clubs can be found all over the world, playing all sorts of music. Different genres of music are being created regularly, especially in the house scene. Clubgoers range from teens to adults, and clubs have taken this into account. Major cities have under and over 21 club scenes to cater to each crowd. As for the dancing, teens are creating new dances all the time. Mostly, however, dances are free-style and avoid a great deal of structure." Article source:

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