Dirty dancing, such as grinding (The bum-on-pelvis swaying is also called freak dancing, twerking, or just freaking.), is not new. No, I’m not referring to that 1987 movie, but history has made a lot of dances that raise eyebrows.
One of the dances that made moralists scream in horror was the waltz.
I know what you are thinking – you may not think of a classic ballroom dance associated with fairytale princesses, ballet suites, and lavish ballrooms of Vienna, Austria, to be declared once as nasty. Well, the whole idea of swirling with a partner in his or her arms started in the mid-18th century, in the peasant communities in Austria and Germany. They initially came in two styles: the waltzer and the ländler. Those two dances became so popular that it spread to servant balls in the royal suburbs. Then, in 1780, the waltz became the flagship dance of Vienna, and it spread through other countries over time.
But popularity came with a price – a moral price. Catholics decried that ballroom dance as one where couples were close together (Besides, it was the first dance to be danced with little to no space as possible.) and spinning so fast that it made them dizzy. Thus, many hamlets in the countries where it spread banned it. England was no stranger to its controversy, when it introduced itself in balls during the Regency Era.
The United States also met the spinning in three-quarter time with bashing when early European immigrants introduced it. Elizabeth Aldrich described the dance, “This constant spinning, never reversing, could and did produce a feeling of euphoria – or, worse, vertigo – that could result in a loss of control.” In California, Mission fathers outcasted it because the method requires dancers to dance front-to-front with little to no space. But they lifted the ban after 1834, and dancers adopted a Spanish Waltz.
Well, the controversy surrounding dancing with closed positions and spinning around started again in 2007, when schools in China were looking for ways to combat childhood obesity. They added compulsory dancing to the curriculum, and the waltz became the main focus. They introduced seven dance routines that took five minutes. Elementary school children danced “Good Friends,” “Sunny Campus” and “Little White Boat”. Junior high school kids danced “Youth Melody” and “The Yangge Dance”, and school students spun to “The Waltz” and “The Young.”
Some Chinese teachers and parents viewed the variations of a single social dance virtually the same way Catholic officials and upperclassmen did centuries ago.”The dance plan makes no sense. Running and calisthenics are a more effective way to lose weight. Our school needs to hire a special teacher to teach dancing and it will take up a lot of time,” said one Beijing teacher, “Most importantly, letting students waltz will create hotbeds of adolescent love. That is not good. Schools work very hard to prevent students from falling in love too early.” Simply put, she is bringing up the fact that dancing in a very closed position front-to-front would bring “puppy love,” just as moralists once feared in the Regency and Victorian Eras. Also, that “puppy love” from closed-position dancing can put a dent to students’ grades. A commentator of a newspaper said, “Making students dance – under duress – is not an essential part of education, it simply creates new burdens for students.” Thus, some schools scrapped the idea. One of them reported red faces of embarrassment and that a girl felt ticklish because of a risque dance move.
Although it was considered such a controversial dance a few times in the course of history, the grace and refinery of the waltz is worlds cleaner than rubbing one’s bum to a partner’s frontal hips.