Those dance masters were a persistent bunch

Yet another mention of the concern over dirty dancing appeared in the January 17, 2022 edition of the Winchester Star‘s “Out of the Past” feature. The following is dated January 12, 1922:

The “jazz” dance is slowly but surely being discarded, according to a statement issued by Fenton Bott, director of dance reform of the American National Association of Masters of Dancing.

The association began two years ago, to work for cleaner dancing. Bott said, “We feel and hope that the crest of the wave of disgusting wriggling “jazz” has been reached, and reports to us from every part of the country show clean dancing crusaders being started everywhere. All exaggerated movements, especially of the upper parts of the body, are in very bad taste in social dancing and are never found with true refinement and culture.”

Of course, we know that the Masters of Dancing failed, and by a wide margin. In fact, that “wave” of “disgusting wriggling ‘jazz,” the crest of which they claim had been reached, was just beginning to swell. At that very moment in history, the Charleston and a dance called “the breakaway” were being fused up in Harlem to become what we now know as the Lindy Hop, so named by Shorty George Snowden in 1929. The video below, from that same year, is the first known recording of the Lindy Hop on film. In fact, the guy in the third couple shown is Shorty George.

According to an article in the September 30, 2012 edition of the Philadelphia Dance History Journal, the National Association of Masters of Dancing was formed in 1883 in Boston. (Of course.) In fact, multiple dance associations were springing up in response to the “sorry state” of American dancing in which less formal steps were crowding out the formal European steps. The two-step, for example, which was overtaking the waltz in popularity was dubbed “the idiot waltz.” In any case, these associations not only appointed themselves as the guardians of morality on the dance floor, they also saw an opportunity to promote their own dances and hence, sell more lessons. Some things in the dance world haven’t changed. If you’re a dancer, you’ll enjoy the article and I encourage you to click on the link and read it.

As it turns out, the American National Association of Masters of Dancing still exists and after having merged with an international association, now simply goes by “Dance Masters of America.” You can visit their website, which provides a brief history of the organization here. The site has a tab for teacher training, competitions, their convention, and others, but I do not see any information on “bad taste in social dancing.” Guess they gave up on that.

About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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2 Responses to Those dance masters were a persistent bunch

  1. Jerry Lane says:

    One can only imagine what these folks would have thought of twerking. Maybe it would be OK by them since they seemed to be concerned mainly of moving things above the waist. LOL

    Fenton Bott? Sounds like a name you would make up for one of your books. Curiosity made me google it … the first return is for a different Fentons’ grave coordinates in a Texas cemetery.


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