When is the Last Time You Danced?

by MooshiMooshi

Note: This article is behind the WaPo paywall, and has a lot of graphics so I don’t know if it would work well in text format. See what you think

The Decline of Social Dancing.

I read this fun article on our various President’s social dancing skills (or lack thereof). Reading this article, it is clear that men were expected to know how to dance, and that it was for a long time a type of social grease. In my own family, men in the older generation still danced. Both of my grandfathers could dance, in particular my maternal grandfather, who could cut quite a figure on the dance floor, as could my grandmother. My father in law was also a great dancer and loved weddings so he could show off. When he and his wife socialized, polkas and waltzes were always a part of parties, combined with cards and booze. By my parent’s era, though, old school couples dancing was uncool, and at their parties everyone did those 60’s go-go dances, and later, disco moves. However, people still danced at parties back then.
I realized when I read this article that outside of weddings, proms and organized dorm dances, I haven’t been to a party than involved dancing since my parent’s time. In particular, I don’t think I have been to a party in a house with dancing. Teens have their own dance moves, as they always have, but once they hit adulthood, how many of them dance at parties? I think that the era of adults needing to be able to dance as a form of social grease is long gone.
Ah, but then I remembered…. TikTok. Perhaps the social grease function of dancing has simply moved, like everything else, to social media.

Anyway, here is the link to the article on Presidential dancing skills. It is quite fun. I had no idea that Betty Ford was such a good dancer, or that LBJ was taught to dance by his mother, who taught square dancing in the Texas hill country to kids.

59 thoughts on “When is the Last Time You Danced?

  1. Fun article!!

    I remember reading that Washington was a great dancer – he was also extremely tall for the era, so that made him stand out even more at parties. I’m surprised that JQA was a good dancer – he seemed like such a grump, but I guess he was also a diplomat. Carter is a good dancer?? LBJ dancing makes me think of The Crown with Princess Margaret.

    We used to dance at house parties in college – people would crank up music, and we’d all dance. There was also a dance club we went to after the parties/bar that was a lot of fun. Sometimes we’d go to bars with a dance floor in my 20’s. But as a “real adult” I pretty much only dance in public at weddings, which aren’t that frequent these days. (Not referring to the Before Times – just my age.)

    I am not a great dancer. But I did take social dance in college for a PE credit! My social dance partner is now one of my best friend’s husband, so sometimes we’ll try to remember one of them when we all get together.

  2. Whenever I go to a wedding, I always envy the older couples who are out on the dance floor dancing beautifully together. People in my generation and younger also dance at weddings, but that usually just involves getting out on the floor and moving around to the beat. I would love to take ballroom dancing lessons, but DH has no interest.

    My father refused to dance, at all, even though he was of a generation where couples dancing was common. My parents didn’t have dancing at all at their wedding. He died before my wedding, so I never got the chance to try to convince him to do a father-daughter dance.

    Re. dancing outside weddings and proms: A few yeas ago when DS’ eighth-grade class did their DC trip, one of the events was an evening cruise on the Potomac, and there was a dance floor on the boat. Lots of kids (boys and girls) were dancing — I saw videos. The kids were doing TikTok-type moves, of various skill levels. My DS didn’t dance, though — I think he might have inherited my Dad’s no-dance gene.

    I love going to events with Greek dancing. Many Greek churches around here have annual festivals (at least when there’s not a pandemic going on), and often they will hire a Greek band for dancing for a couple of hours. It’s fun because anyone can join in (no partner required), the steps are easy to learn (it’s just a pattern that’s repeated over and over again), and even if you can’t get the steps right, you can just shuffle along with the line. We had some Greek dancing at DH’s and my wedding, and it was a huge hit.

  3. Betty Ford was almost certainly the best dancer ever to occupy the White House.

    She had trained since girlhood to be a professional and once performed at Carnegie Hall with the company led by modern dance icon Martha Graham.

    Wow, that is something I wouldn’t have expected.

  4. I am not a dancer. Surprised? No, I didn’t think you would be.

    Though if we’re someplace, even in our own kitchen, and ‘our song’ comes on maybe I’ll grab DW for a few seconds of slow dancing. I am such the romantic!

  5. Growing up in TX, the younger set could two-step, but it was more popular in small towns than the city. Certain country-western nightclubs still have dancing. My widowed great uncle met his second wife at 85 out polka dancing. At her funeral, they played a polka as the casket went down the aisle. Back in the late 90’s-early 00’s, I knew a fiar amount of people who did some swing dancing when it was popular.

  6. My dad is a great dancer. He is of the generation of sock hops and formal dances in HS, college and beyond. My mom, not so much, so I have memories of being at family events where my dad and I would dance ballroom and polka.

    I took ballroom dancing in college too! I have many fond memories of dancing with DH on Saturday nights in college. It really just a mash of people hot and sweaty and drinks being spilled everywhere. The last time DH and I danced would have been at a wedding…maybe six years ago? For cardio I take a zoom dance class where I’m learning all the dances that HS/college dance teams do to all the hip music that I’ve never heard of. It’s fun.

  7. Growing up in TX we danced the two-step and Mexican cumbias. I love dancing although I’m not good. Before the pandemic I was getting better at salsa, and it’s sad to think that partner dancing may be still be a long way off. Maybe I’ll get myself motivated to take zoom dance classes.

    This was cute.


    Thanks to my daughter @ella.travolta for being a great dance partner. Join us and #DoTheScottsSlide @scotts_lawn #lawn #ad

    ♬ Sunday Best – Surfaces

    IMO disco dancing is easy but salsa is hard.

  8. I grew up in two-steppin’ country, but as I hated all things associated with my small Texas town, I didn’t spend my weekends at the local honky tonk like many of my classmates. In elementary school we learned how to square dance in PE class. That was fun!

  9. Dancing is alive and well in Miami. I guess it’s the Latin Culture. I love to dance and had a lot of fun in the disco era, luckily underage kids could go to clubs in Venezuela back then. In college, I took DH to a few international student parties in Boston area colleges. He quickly figured out he would have to dance to get any time with me. That’s when I knew he loved me and also that he was fearless. Blue- collar kid from MA, who NEVER danced braving the dance floor at the rich kid international student crowd, just to be with me. Swoon.

  10. Also, one of the most loving gestures I’ve had from my kids: my son decided we should have a first dance at his wedding (after their first dance, the bride’s dance with her dad) he said my mom is a good dancer and loves it, so I want to do this. He even took salsa lessons to prepare. I chose “oye Como Va” (Tito Puente versión) and it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

  11. Hmm. I can’t see the comment I thought I posted so here it is again, apologies if it’s a duplicate!

    I took ballroom dancing in 7th grade, probably the worst possible time – really awkward kids, tall girls and short boys, braces, everyone had giant feet and stepped on each other!

    I learned to swing dance a bit in HS and college (it was the 90s!) but most of the time, HS and college dances were just people moving and not doing formal steps, although we did do the Macarena and Electric Slide – I was reminded of this on Sunday when we watched The Replacements before the Super Bowl. :) Most of the dancing I did was choreographed (in shows).

    DH doesn’t like to dance and we didn’t have dancing at our wedding because of it – we had a jazz trio playing music. I really don’t care for the father/daughter and mother/son dances either, so that was no great loss. We do dance a bit sometimes at weddings, but I have a hard time (often) when the music is too loud so I have to go to the back of the room away from the speakers. At DH’s uncle’s (3rd) wedding a few years ago the music was so loud that we left entirely at that point – I couldn’t even stay in the room even with earplugs!

  12. At my own wedding, I hated the couple first dance – so awkward and uncomfortable to be watched like that. And we didn’t practice or take lessons like some other people did. But I really enjoyed the “Wedding Party dance” with everyone on the floor & a more casual upbeat song. I also enjoyed dancing with all the different ages/mix of people.

  13. NoB, I have gone to lots of those Greek festivals, as well as Polish church festivals, which are common in CT and central MA. Polkas!! We had a polka band, with a fiddle player, at our wedding.
    When I was living in NYC, I did a lot of contra dancing because it was a big social event. We would get over 100 people at the dances and many of us would go out later (midnight or so) to get food. There were always great bands and callers. Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (Ashokan Farewell, theme music for Kevin Burns Civil War show) were regular performers. I was not a great dancer but it was so much fun. A lot of the people were also into Greek and Balkan dancing so I did some workshops, and man, that stuff gets hard in a hurry. Broken rhythms and odd time signatures and complex moves…
    I haven’t really danced since our wedding. I hauled kids through some giant contra dances at a big oldtime festival, but that was about it. I am a terrible dancer even though I love it. I would love to do the Texas dances that Kim describes, and I would love to learn bhangra dancing.
    DH doesn’t really dance. He wishes he could do a polka like his father but never tries to do it. DS2 loves to dance and is good at it. He loves to dance at parties, even when he was little. DD is a good dancer but is to embarrassed to do it in public

  14. We didn’t do any of those first dance thingies at our wedding, but we did do the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey. We had a lot of kids and they loved it, but all the seniors were out there doing the chicken moves too, since that song was a tradition in weddings of their era

  15. For my D’s quinceanera we took dance classes as a family, practicing father-daughter and brother-sister dances. As a bonus the dance classes counted toward a Boy Scout badge for my son. Win-win!

    We used to go Zydeco dancing, once or twice with the kids. One day I’d like to visit Louisiana dancehalls.

  16. Although I profess to hate being from a small town, we did do the Chicken dance at our wedding.

  17. I love dancing but can’t follow steps so just do whatever my feet want to do. My enthusiasm makes up for lack of formal dance moves. I spent a lot of time dancing in my late teens. There was a guy who was my dance partner and I kept it as such. I wasn’t interested in a boyfriend. We had a lot of fun dancing.
    There is dancing at pre wedding celebrations in the home country and some communities have dancing at the reception. Definitely lots of dancing, fun music and all ages are encouraged to dance. Choreographed Bollywood style dances at weddings have become big in the home country but I don’t like those, feels like a show and the spontaneity of guests dancing is lost.

  18. I love social dancing! Met SO dancing. Growing up in Texas by high school could 2-step, polka, and waltz. We went to the SPJST Hall and then snuck into dance halls in Dallas in the early 80s. Dancing was not as much a thing in college or right after, but came back in the mid-90s and I picked it up again.

    SO and I took lessons to be able to do “fancier” moves in 2-Step and waltz and we took some swing classes, but not enough for me to get comfortable. I can do a very basic salsa and a basic cha-cha if someone is leading! We quit going dancing when the DDs came along – the baby sitter was easy to get, the late night was the hard part. We have gone a few times in the 2000s or danced at others weddings. Unfortunately the number of places have declined as has SO’s health. Before the pandemic, I was contemplating taking classes again, though when I mentioned it to SO he wasn’t interested in joining.

  19. NoB – there was a hotel in Boston where they used to have Greek dancing. DH loves Greek food, so we went for the food and stayed for the dancing. We have a big Greek festival here too. DD was horrified at the thought that I would go on stage and join in – which I am quite likely to do.

  20. I grew up in two-steppin’ country, but as I hated all things associated with my small Texas town

    What is J-M up to these days? She lives in Paris. You’re teenage self would be very impressed. Even with the obnoxious French coworkers and the lockdown.

  21. In the Before Times, we went to dinner dances monthly in the winter. DH will swing dance to accommodate me. DHs BFF is an excellent dancer and we would dance a few times. Swing dancing was a big deal in college, and yes, we did the a chicken Dance at our wedding and most weddings at that time.

  22. OK, nerdly dance fun…. Heap sort performed as a Hungarian dance. There are actually a bunch of these out on YouTube, showing different sorting algorithms

  23. Kim, I love Zydeco music and dancing. I could never do the dancing but I love watching people do it.

  24. Rhett: My teenage self could not have ever imagined how things would turn out. I have so outkicked my coverage it’s beyond unbelievable (for you non-sports people that means I have far exceeded what I “should” have accomplished ;) ) Of course, my teenage self would also be very disappointed I wasn’t married to my high school sweetheart so you can’t please everyone!

  25. I love dancing, and I’m reasonably good at it. DH is good at it too. We really should go out more when the Plague lets up, but the problem is we prefer 70s and 80s dance music, and the dance clubs are LOUD, electronica, techno, pickup scenes for young people.

    We used to go folk dancing in grad school, but that’s less of a thing around here (and in the 21st century).

  26. I am entirely willing to believe that I don’t go to the right festivals. And now that DH is retired (she said, noting that he’s locked in his office taking depositions) maybe we can go to some of them! The Colorado mountains in the summer often have jazz festivals and other music festivals. Maybe we can finally take long weekends and go.

  27. Check our Dance Flurry. This was 2014 – I wasn’t at this one, but it looks pretty typical for the dance hall at the trad music festivals we go to – a real mix of ages

    I haven’t actually done the dancing in years though. We just watch

  28. Like Ivy, I used to dance in college. In the dorms, there were parties every weekend with dancing (and typically lots of beer). The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, EWF, and Just the Way You Are (Billy Joel, not Bruno Mars) were typically part of those parties. I had a stereo capable of high volume, so I ended up DJing some of those parties, which was not as much fun as being part of the crowd, so I’d make some mix tapes in advance and play those.

    In my post-college single and DINK life, there was a fair amount of dancing. The ski clubs I belonged to always had dancing after the annual banquets, as well as at some other events, and at related parties there’d usually be dancing. Some friends from those clubs threw some B&W balls that involved dancing (and helped me reduce my cost per use for my tux). During that time, I went to a lot of weddings, and there was usually dancing at the receptions. And we’d also go with friends to clubs to dance– one of my favorite songs is a favorite because it reminds me of the first time DW and I went dancing together.

    But since moving back home, dancing has largely been limited to weddings, and by the time we moved, most of our friends were already married.

  29. “I like disco.”

    Nothing wrong with that. I like disco too.

    The soundtrack to my HS/college life was mostly disco. I played in a cover band in HS, and we played mostly disco.

  30. “I played in a cover band in HS, and we played mostly disco.”

    What instrument(s) did you play Finn?

  31. This discussion is making me remember how much I love Donna Summer. She was definitely part of my college soundtrack.

  32. I don’t miss the bar and bat mitzvah circuit, but we did get to dance very weekend.
    I took ball room dancing lessons when I was single with my boyfriend. A bunch of us went in Manhattan and it was a lot of fun. I think we were mid 20s and we went for 8 weeks on a Tuesday night.

    I do not like dancing, so I rarely dance unless I attend a wedding or similar type of event.

  33. I miss dancing. DH and I swing dance, though we hung up those shoes ~6 years ago. I find myself with muscle memory for it, so if I picked it up again, it would be easy and fun. DH is good too, so it’s always nice to have a good lead/partner.

    I think I’d like to try ballroom dancing, or some sort of social dancing. I’m not sure I’d want to take traditional classes (like ballet, jazz or tap), but I wouldn’t be adverse to trying.

    The “fun” with swing dance is the beat count… You can do swing dance to almost any music with a 4/4 count. :) I found myself counting out a lindy or charleston to CCR’s Bad Moon on the Rise.

  34. It is funny to me that the article shows a CVS. They have been a nightmare pharmacy for me, and per the local Nextdoor and Facebook feeds, a nightmare for many others. I actually know a few pharmacist that have left CVS because they were getting moved around to other locations without having a say, tired of dealing with distraught and angry customers (usually related to changes in their healthplans and not necessarily CVS), and general lack of personal/relationship consulting.

    I don’t know much about the pharmacy profession, but I think it has really changed in recent years.

  35. I hope my friendly grocery store pharmacy manager is not hired away. Customers really like her and seek her out. It would be a loss. Actually, all my grocery store people have been tremendous.

    On another note, I was tempted by LfB and ordered from Gold Belly specifically Red Truck bakery. We liked their Bourbon, Ginger, Lemon cake. We have started eating our Valentines Day treats already.

  36. A am “kinda” friends (not close, so no deep insights) with a couple of hospital pharmacists. They’re both sciencey-smart and got good paying jobs right out of school. The part of the career that seems not as competitive is that there are not as many management paths to more lucrative salaries as there seem to be in other professions.

  37. Finn – you have a mask convert! My son mentioned that he wants to find a mask to wear after the pandemic is over, particularly when he has a cold. He’s thinking he’d wear it on public transportation and at school.

  38. My university has a well known pharmacy school. It is probably our most prestigious program. Pharmacy is not an easy major. It is a 6 year program with tons of hardcore lab science. Kids who flunk out of that program often migrate over to us and end up as top students in our major. I always wonder why people would suffer through such a hard major when the career path is working at CVS.I assume it pays well?

  39. Yeah, so, I *cannot* dance. And DH is worse. I did get him on the floor at a friend’s kid’s wedding a couple of years ago, but before that it was our wedding. My college dancing experience was the pogo, which is the one dance that is pretty much right up my alley. In law school, I went two-stepping — which is, let’s be honest here, the easiest dance in the world, and I was fine until he tried to twirl me, and I ended up knocking over an amplifier on the stage and sitting on top of it. Luckily he was a VERY good sport.

    DH and I took lessons for our wedding. What I didn’t realize was that our song (Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Shut up and Kiss Me”) had a very specific rhythym and required swing dancing (I forget if it was East Coast or West Coast — all I know is we tried the wrong one first). Haven’t used it since!

    On the good news front: DD has a summer internship! It’s EE, so not really what she thinks she wants to do, but she is already getting lab experience in the biotech area, and I think it will be great experience to try out something different and see if she likes it (because, let’s be real here, she has ZERO idea what the various engineering fields actually involve). She was very excited to get the offer, because it’s here and she really wants to be home for the summer, and then over the moon to discover it’s a paid internship ($25/hr! Even I’m impressed with that!). The timing is also awesome IMO, because she hasn’t really gotten into major-specific classes yet, and it will also help her start fleshing out the options between getting a job right away and going for a MS in a particular area (since her degree will just be general engineering).

  40. I will say this about CVS specifically. DS1 worked as a full time front-of-the-house hourly employee for them for ~2yrs after finally flunking out of his undergrad. He really liked working for them, but he really was a model employee, much like NoB’s son, different from a lot of the entry level people they get. Got promoted, got other raises, was able to pretty much choose which store he wanted to work in after the first year. They match 1:1 on the employees’ first 5% of 401k contributions and have a good investment lineup to choose from. I was actually talking to a young guy behind the counter, same job as DS had, at my local CVS last month. He too is FT and loves the 401k match. The way DS1 was treated and DS3 at Dollar General, also a model employee, has made me change my thinking about all the ‘crappy retail jobs’ you hear about. You get out what you put it. It’s clear to me that if someone is unreliable and just punching the clock when they are there that they will indeed have a ‘crappy retail job’.

    And, yeah, the CVS/Walgreens/Rite-Aid/grocery store type major chain pharmacist jobs are a real grind, but the pay is good.

  41. I usually dance with DH at holiday parties, but that’s the only chance we get. I am thinking about gifting him with couples’ dancing lessons, post-pandemic. He loves dancing.

  42. My SIL is a pharmacist at a hospital. I think there are more interesting challenges in a hospital. She compounds a lot of medications, and since she’s kind of in the basement, I don’t think she interacts with the patients very much. Her hospital used to have good perks, like 3 10 hour days counting as full time, but they cut that stuff within the last few years. She’s in her early 60s so she’s just sticking it out til she qualifies for the retirement benefits.

  43. The CVS and Walgreens around here are always getting robbed, and I live in a nice area! The local police are always trying to combat it, and it isn’t just the prescriptions that are being taking, but makeup, laundry soap, “$25 in miscellaneous food products”. And these are crimes that get reported with a weapon being involved. These stores don’t sell beer or liquor either. There is some level of danger in these retail establishments.

  44. There’s a huge difference between being a retail pharmacist (working at CVS or Walgreens) and being a clinical pharmacist (working in a hospital). Hospital pharmacists, especially at tertiary care hospitals, are often PharmDs and participate in clinical rounds, decision-making, etc. Retail pharmacy pays great ($100k +) and provides consistent shift work, but hospital pharmacy is more patient focused and involved.

  45. The one career path I have regretted not exploring more was actually Pharmacy. I do agree with Sunshine that the growth prospects aren’t the same as some other careers, but the ability to be flexible while also being paid well are great. The retail pharmacies pay really well even for “substitutes” or occasional weekend shifts, so it’s a good job for people who want to keep their toe in their field PT during certain phases of life, but you can also keep a FT hospital job and pick up extra shifts and make more money during other phases of life. I’d much rather have my “side hustle” opportunities be working at CVS anywhere in the country rather than driving an Uber.

    I mean, I’m doing fine, and I am not going back to school in my 40’s. But it’s an interesting path to consider.

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