Dancing in the 1950s: SATURDAY AFTERNOON DANCE CLASSES VS SATURDAY EVENING DANCES
Rick and Joan far surpassed my expectations on Sunday. We had two interview sessions, with a lunch break in between, and I have an hour of recordings from each session. By the end of the second session my head was swirling with information and I felt exhausted, and I was not even the one doing the talking!
Going into Sunday, I had two goals in mind. The first was to capture stories from Rick and Joan’s life, to develop and build on the timeline Rick had already started for me. The second was to explore in more detail some of the stories pertaining to Rick and Joan’s relationship, from the time they first met to the time they got engaged. Janet, and I had discussed the possibility of writing down her parents memoirs for quite a while before the project began. We needed to determine what aspects of their lives were most important for her to get recorded. We determined that instead of outlining and writing an entire novel, we would break the project up into short stories. This makes the project more affordable, and is a good option for Janet, seeing as her primary interest is to preserve her parents’ memories for close friends and family. In the end we agreed that a good place to start would be Rick and Joan’s love story.
We began talking about the Saturday dance class where Rick and Joan met. I had previously written a post Saturday Night Dancing in 1950s London, and Rick was intent to correct some details. Dance classes were never on a Saturday evening; instead they were on a Saturday afternoon. During a dance class you would have men lined up on one side, and women lined up on another. They would have arrived separately and be asked to pair up in order to practice the dance. It is during a dance class that Rick and Joan were paired up to dance and subsequently started dating, grew to love each other, and got engaged on a rainy day while sheltering in a phone booth.
It is on a Saturday night that Rick and Joan would have gone, perhaps, to Hammersmith’s Palais de dance. There wouldn’t be the same segregation of sexes, as people went out dancing with their partner. It would be the same when Rick and Joan went to dances at the technical college where Rick was doing his apprenticeship. There would not be a lesson, just a dance, but the lesson sure helped Rick feel more confident dancing with Joan in the dance halls.
Though Rick couldn’t remember exactly who had played, he said that it was just after the big band era, and these big bands would have 24 players, mostly trumpets and some strings. Of course soldiers during the war would need some sort of release, and so they would go to the Hammersmith’s Palais when they were able to get a leave. It is no wonder dancing had become such a popular pastime!
Every time I talk to Rick and Joan it seems more pieces of the puzzle fall in place. It is very challenging to find the details of daily life in the 1950s, as much of what is posted online is historical or political knowledge. Talking to Rick in Joan is the easiest way to fill in the gaps, though perhaps as I record some of the details I will make it a little easier for the next person looking to research the same topic.