Rock ’n’ Roll Dances of the 1950s

by Lisa Jo Sagolla, American Dance Floor Series (from

A Review

Lisa Joís head must be so full! There are more facts per page in this slim volume than in the O.E.D. It truly is a definitive study of youth dances in that decade. I remember it all from my lofty viewpoint (I turned 30 in 1949, and I recall being chastised when I couldnít remember which foot was first in a line dance). I do believe that social dance has always reflected the eraís temperment—the celebrating Charleston in the flaming 20s, the slow dances of the troubled 30s and 40s, all of which in other volumes this series covers.

I loved knowing that my Quaker city, Philadelphia, was the birthplace of many fads. The methods and developments of Dick Clarkís American Bandstand were enlightening. Location near a high school provided easy teen access. Regulars (those who were spotted on camera) were chosen and encouraged but not compensated except through exposure.

Sagolla highlights the connection between social and political tensions and the dance forms as they emerged (which is the point of this series of social studies), but I donít always get it. Perhaps the fact that white youth embraced the motional freedom of black dance portends social change, but I donít recall she said so.

I do not doubt that those studying social phenomenon will find this volume of interest. And dancers of all stripes may have fun reading about all of this as I did.

—Ruth Grauert, June 24, 2012