Clothing for Dancing Lessons: State Schools

Figure 1.--We have no background information on this photograph, but it looks to us like a play/dancing lesson at a British state primary school during the 1950s. The children have taken their shoes and socks off so as not to mar the floor of the gym. I'm not sure precisely what is happening here.

State schools do not give the same attentuion to dancing as private schools. They often do, however, provide some dance inhstruction. American elementary schools often do square dancing. Secondary schools in the 1950s and 60s usually did social dancing in the gym classes. Dancing has changed so much in recent years, HBC is no longer sure if schools still provide lessons in the traditional dances like the box step. Hopefully HBC readers can provide some guidance here.

Country Trends

We do not yet have much information about school dance classes. We know that they are wide variations from country to country as to including dance classess in the classroom. I do not recall dance classes in primary school in the United States during the 1950s, but American schools vary widely from school to school. We believe that some schools did have dance programs. Mot commonly this was social dancing, but younger children may have done iterperative dance in some schools. I do remember dance lessons in junior hogh school. We did basic social dancing and square dancuing in gym class. I believe that similar dance instruction was available in British schools, but have few details. We have no nformation on other European countries. We suspect that the rather academiclly orinented French schools did not have dance lessons. Hopefully our European readers will provide details in their countries.

Personal Experiences

One HBC contributor recalls his experiences in elementary school: I never attended dancing school. In the sixth grade, however, we were introduced in public school to the art of dancing. The lessons took place in our auditorium and the two ladies who were our teachers played various records on a phonograph and tried to teach us the steps to some folk dances, polkas, waltzes, and a schottische. Most of us boys would rather have been playing (ANYTHING!) outside. The girls (many of them taller than the boys (in my case, most of the other boys were taller than me, too; I stand a regal five seven and a half today) seemed to enjoy both the music and the dancing than the boys (Among us boys, the tune "Ahab the Arab" was the melody of choice.) Each side pretty much eyed the other as soldiers on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall did once upon a time. When we sixth grade boys were being herded into dancing lessons at school, our idea of a dance tune was "The Monster Mash"! Those two elderly Southern ladies who taught us really had their hands full trying to teach us any sense of rythym. In high school the very few dances I did attend featured the popular "music" of the late '60s (just tune in any oldies station), and we tossed out conventional steps and beats in favor of "moving with the music". Yes, it was our version of "it has a good beat, and it's easy to dance to" (the stock answer of teenagers in the later years of "American Bandstand" when asked to "rate" a record).

Having never really been a social animal, I put away my dancing shoes until I went off to the University of Mississippi, where I enrolled in a physical ed course called "Folk Dancing" to satisfy one requirement for a Liberal Arts degree. I practiced in my dorm room, to the amusement of my roommate and our pals in a small very old dorm on campus.

My children's Jr. High in 2002 sponsors dancing classes on a weeknight for 6 weeks in 7th grade. This is a public school. Sorry, I don't have any pictures. Boys wear a shirt with a tie and pants (usually khaki). Girls wear a skirt or dress. Most of the 7th grade participates. I chaperoned last year and the boys didn't seem to groan much at all. They learned waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha and swing.


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Created: April 18, 2000
Last updated: January 30, 2004