You Gotta Know How To Pony

The dance crazes of rock's first era

  As befits a music that was birthed mostly from Black musical sources, rock and roll became synonymous with dance crazes - blink-and-you-missed-it fads that involved some wild new dance steps, usually accompanied by a hit single either before or after the fact. In the Fifties, rock dances were generally appropriated from other sources; the lindy hop and the jitterbug served as a basis for many of the fast dances, and aside from the occasional glorious one-off (The Diamonds' deathless, monumentally sleazy "The Stroll"), most rock dancing in the Ike Years remained confined to a few moves.   

  That all changed in the early Sixties, as a nation desperate for fads and able to buy armloads of 45s discovered the thrill of making an idiot out of yourself, all by yourself, on the dance floor. If you were around then, you know the names by heart: The Twist. The Hully Gully. The Watusi. The Jerk. The Fly. There were dozens of others.

  The arrival of the Beatles on American shores in 1964 didn't exactly kill off dance crazes - The Brit Invasion even tried one of its own with the super-lame "Do The Freddie" - but the beatnik culture that mutated into hippiedom soon after DID kill the fad. Although disco would later bring line dancing to the masses, individual craziness never infected rock quite the same way again; new dance fads remain confined to R&B and hip-hop these days, and rock fans have seemingly decided to rage rather than cut a rug. Their loss.

Here's a collection of links to the best websites about Fifties and Sixties dance crazes and the songs that went with them. If you have or know of a site like this that isn't listed here, e-mail me!

  • Dance History Archives This dance history site lists almost every popular American dance fad of the 20th century alphabetically, with origins. Cross-referenced. Click on the appropriate letter at the top.
  • The Blue Juice Fad Dances Page A more rock n' roll oriented list, complete with years of origin and accompanying theme songs.
  • Dance Crazes of the Sixties A Britcentric page that describes the effect dance crazes had on the other side of the sink and provides a pictorial guide to learning five of the most popular! From Sixties City.
  • Dee Dee Sharp and a Different Day An excellent essay on the Mashed Potato and how it affected Miss Sharp's career. From The Lively Set.
  • Dances Jukebox A handful of original dance fad songs in RealAudio format.
  • Dance Steps: Rock and Roll If you want to learn the basic 50s rock and roll steps, this is a wonderfully detailed text guide. From Gotta Dance.