Photo Essay

Let’s dance

Above: A couple dacing in a London jazz club, 1940s. Photo: TopFoto

Last year, some pundits predicted a comeback of the Roaring Twenties – a post-pandemic world of Gatsbyesque wild abandon and frenzied fun as life returned to some semblance of normality. But with the economy in free fall and the cost of living skyrocketing, the only flapping many of us are doing is sadly not the dance variety. Still, maybe there’s hope.

Looking at our recent history, it’s evident that economic hardships, political turmoil and even war have brought about major shifts in music, dance and culture in general. When the going gets tough, the tough get… partying!

Despite the ravages and rationing of WWII, we still managed to get our glad rags on and go out dancing: jive, jitterbug and swing all hotfooted their way across the Pond as we embraced our American cousins’ answer to gloom and strife.

The Flower Power and “make love not war” counter-culture movement of peace-loving hippies in the 1960s was a direct response to the horrors of the Vietnam war. Whether they’re aware of it or not, festivalgoers today are still evoking the same feelings of freedom and community that were set by Woodstock, the mother of all festivals that took place in 1969. It continues to echo half a century later, in current festival fashions.

Above: Flower Power at Woburn Abbey, 1967. Photo: TopFoto

When analysing our current situation, the statisticians keep referring to the 1970s, a time when unemployment was higher than the piles of uncollected rubbish and bank balances were low. However, that didn’t prevent glam rock from strutting its satin-jumpsuited joy into our front rooms, nor did it stop the safety pin-clad rebels of punk from shouting their discontent at the Establishment, all the while inspiring a new generation of musicians and dance crazes.

Black Monday, and the stock market crash of 1987, were swiftly followed by the Acid House movement in the summer of 1988. It embraced a British tradition of warehouse parties and all-nighters, with ravers dancing under the influence of Ecstasy, the “love-inducing” drug, to House tunes imported from Chicago. This not only influenced music over the next two decades and beyond, it also united youth culture in a way not seen since the 1960s, breaking down class and cultural boundaries for many years to come.

Above: Rave at The Hacienda Manchester, 1988. Photo: TopFoto

African-American playwright and writer Lorraine Hansberry once said: “This is one of the glories of man, the inventiveness of the human mind and the human spirit: whenever life doesn’t seem to give an answer, we create one.” What we will invent as a remedy to the challenges we are facing remains to be seen, but it is one thing we can all look forward to. Let’s hope it involves a lot of unrestrained dancing.

Khaled Bazzi is Art Director at Perspective

Arts & Culture

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