Friday, August 31, 2018

The Ballroom Dance Craze

By Genevieve Bernstein, Hawaii Kai.

In the teens decade of the last century, the US went dance-mad and much of the world followed suit.This dance craze was given much impetus by a young couple Vernon and Irene Castle. Vernon, an English comedian was working in America in stage musicals and Irene, a wannabee dancer met. He got her a job in the musical he was working in and they were married in 1911. They practiced and practiced, went to Paris as a dance team and were a smash hit. They returned to New York where they began a series of tea dances that became the rage of high society.

“Social dancers believe that life is dance and everyone
dances with their own rhythm.”

And of course other dance teachers bloomed all over. From 1912 to 1915 over 100 ballroom dances were created. The Castles founded Castle House, a studio for teaching a more refined type of dancing. A natural sociological function to distinguish themselves from the "street dancers," the lower classes. Much as the Internationals have done in present day Hawaii. They created many dances, the Castle Walk, the Castle Valse Classique, the Castle Tango, the Castle Last Waltz, the Castle Combination, the Castle Lame Duck, and the Maxixe. And most of their dances became fashionable in most of the American upper class ballrooms.

 "Waterfalls" by TLC  (1995)

And the Castles firmly established the terminology for this type of dancing as "ballroom." When they first founded Castle House, they had trouble finding a band that played music suitable for their dances. They met James Reese Europe (a black man) and engaged him as their personal musician. Many black musicians in New York looked down on syncopated music. Ragtime was associated with minstrel shows. Europe decide that his future lay in popular music and realized the power of syncopation, even in the primitive form of those days and made great use of it. He played in Carnegie Hall in 1914 ten years before the great Paul Whiteman.

"Social dancers believe that there may be three sides to every story:
yours, theirs and the truth."