Waltz, tango and twist all have something in common: They were once considered indecent and immoral.
Today, morality critics turn toward the new dance style – “freaking,” or dry humping, grinding and “sex with your clothes on.”
Parents are outraged and school principals
in California, such as Jim Bennett of Lemoore Union High School and Patricia Law of Windsor High School, canceled school dances due to the inappropriate dance moves. Students interviewed for a “Newsday” article said that if “freaking” is prohibited, they will not attend school dances.
Dancing shouldn’t be so controversial, yet it always has been. As “The Los Angeles Times” reports, in the 17th century, waltz was an immodest innovation because of the closeness of the dancers’ bodies. Passionate tango was suppressed by the Vatican in the 19th century, and in the 1950s, baby boomers fought for their right to twist.
Today’s dancing takes the closeness and passion to the next level. Public displays of sexuality are the norm in dancing.
What’s more disturbing is the age of the dancers. Children as young as 12 participate in freaking. What might be acceptable in clubs is inappropriate for middle school dances.
Chris Booker, Philadelphia’s Q102 radio personality, devoted a part of his morning show to a discussion of grinding last week. He expressed his disgust with this type of dancing and invited his listeners to share their thoughts.
High school students called the studio to say that freaking is “fun” and “the only way to dance.” School dance chaperones called to describe some rules that their school implemented to prevent the explicit dancing. Some of the rules included “no hands on the floor” and “12-inch spaces” between the bodies of the dancers (chaperones had to use rulers).
Neither listeners nor the show host addressed the part of the dancing that is essential to the act itself – the music. The modern hip-hop beat does not make the dancers twist or jump up and down. You will not see a conga line when “Smack That” by Akon is the accompaniment.
But no one will freak if “Cha Cha Slide” is playing.
Many DJs play clean, profanity-free version
of modern hip-hop songs at dance parties.
Unfortunately, swearing is not the only thing that has to be taken out of songs to prevent immodest moves. It is the content of the songs that makes a difference.
The key is to play songs that do not contain sexual references. At school dances, music that encourages the dancers to dance in a tamer manner is crucial to prevent freaking.
At a dance that I attended as a party photographer at Eisenhower Middle School in New Jersey, the music request sheets filled up with “dangerous” hip-hop favorites by artists such as the Ying Yang Twins and Ludacris.
The trick was to avoid the freak-potential tunes and play songs that perhaps were not on the request sheets, but still got the crowd excited. As “Stacy’s Mom,” “Rich Girl,” and the band Bowling For Soup began playing, freaking was not an option – dancers just jumped up and down.
And when The Foundations sang “Build Me Up Buttercup,” the dancers began twisting. They did not seem to care that their inappropriate requests did not play. Whether it was the beat of the songs, the lyrics, or the style, the cleaner songs kept both parents and students happy.
Middle school graduation dance might have taken place a long time ago, but perhaps college students should not be having “sex with their clothes on” in public either.
Oldies from the 1950s are not for every crowd, but in every style there are songs that contain inexplicit lyrics and non-sexual beats.
Waltz, tango and the twist eventually became acceptable. One day, freaking might be a remedy for some other unspeakable dance style. Until then, perhaps a little variety in music and dance styles should be on the menu for your next party.
Natalya Bucuy can be reached at