Dancing in the Fifties

Dancing was something fun to do in the 1950s. It was generally something done once a week, a way of meeting someone and having a great time with friends.


The Mambo, the West Coast Swing, the Cha Cha, the Bosa Nova, the Stroll and the Jive were popular in the 1950s as well as many of the older dances such as the Waltz, the Jitterbug, and the Foxtrot.

This is how a 1950′s dance evening could be – so romantic…

Elvis came along in the 1950s and so we had rock and roll.  The idea that you were also doing lots of exercise was unheard of, but of course dancing is a really fun way of getting fit.


Many of the above dancing were just for two but there was also line dancing in the Fiftes. Far less embarrassing if you happened to be standing around the edge of the large room waiting for someone to ask you to dance!! Yes readers the boys did the asking and the girls just waited.

I can still remember going ballroom dancing in the sixties and waiting to be asked to dance. Imagine if you are only one of a handful still at the edge of the room when the music starts.

The school dance, which I looked forward to each year (this was really the sixties though) was a great opportunity to try out the latest craze despite, in my case, it being an all girls school and boys were not allowed to be invited until we were in the 5th & 6th forms (that’s years 11,12 & 13 in today’s speak).

I still have a memory of my first dance, aged 11 – all girls. I bought my first pair of stockings for the event and can even remember the blue, low-waisted pleated dress I wore. I practised my dance moves for weeks beforehand. It was so exciting and I felt like a proper pre-teenager. Becoming a teenager was a real big deal so the built up to becoming thirteen went on for a number of years.


OK, less of me and more of the dances.

The Stroll  was the classic line dance of the 1950′s. It is performed to slow swing and rhythm and blues and was an American dance. It should not be confused with another Related group dance called The Jitterbug Stroll.

Try this Bop with your friends….

The Stroll was often done only by girls, but that isn’t a ‘rule’ in this classic 50s dance. The Stroll is basically two lines of dancers with a large space in the middle. Lead dancers are on one side, their partners on the other. Dancers do a step pattern to advance the line, and leaders do a solo routine though the line, joining it at the end. The dance continues this way through the music. The Stroll was one of the most popular dances of the 50s, and many nostalgic 50s movies show a scene featuring The Stroll.

Another popular dances from the 1950s was the Twist. This infamous dance was the inspiration of Chubby Checker’s original 1960s hit song, and it could regularly be seen on American Bandstand.


The Bop. When you dance the bop, you usually dance separately from your partner. It’s a lot like jive or swing, but there’s a lot of toe tapping involved, and you don’t hold hands. Usually you alternately tape the heel and toe of either foot as you dance.

Swing. Swing was popular during the 50s, it was a holdover from the 40s jitterbug and swing. Swing is one of the few dances of the fifties that is still practiced today, and still inspires many young people to learn how to dance.


The Hand Jive. “Oh Can You Hand Jive?” If you danced during the 50s, chances are you still remember the Hand Jive; in fact, you probably can’t get it out of your head all these years later. This is one dance you can even do sitting down, as that famous dance scene in the film “Grease” shows! Basically, the dance is a series of hand and arm movements done in a pattern. The song “Willy and the Hand Jive” came out in 1958 and stayed at the top of the charts for 16 weeks, so if you were anybody in 1958 you could hand jive.


The Madison. The Madison first started in the late 1950s and gained popularity in the 1960s. This dance was a little more complicated, and it was done in a group, rather than by a couple. There were several dance sequences with specific steps.

The Cha Cha. Although the Cha Cha first appeared in 1949 or so, it really hit its stride in the 1950s, when it became quite a popular nightclub dance. The Cha Cha is a blend of two Latin American dances, the Puerto Rican Danzonette and the Cuban Danzon.

Rock and Roll. Of course, by the end of the 50s, rock and roll was making news, and dance was changing. Partners no longer danced together, but gyrated to the powerful beat on their own.  Have a go!

Have a great bank holiday Monday everyone. Hope all our friends on the US East Coast are safe and well too.

Selma x

Comments are closed.


Have you been featured on Fifties Wedding? Email us for the code for our 'featured in' button...


Find Fifties Wedding on Facebook
Follow Fifties Wedding on Twitter
Resources Top Blogs