Monday, January 22, 2018

Modern Dance: The Stomp and Shuffle

The stomp was a form of Opvnkv Haco (a traditional dance of the Indigenous American tribes common to southeast) and in Cherokee, Creeks and Seminole societies the dance had both social and religious significance e.g. fertility ceremonies. There were different dances for men and women and the movements were a mixture of shuffle and stomp which resembled the movements of an inebriate person. The dance emphasised movements of the feet and postures for the head but the arms were not considered important. The dance usually took place inside confined floor space and whilst the Stomp was not meant to be a physically challenging exercise, all the participants were likely to dance most of the night.

The Opvnkv Haco was set to a drum beat. The dance style lent itself well to the emerging youth culture of the fifties with an emphasis on bass and drums the single stance movement provided opportunity to break with the close proximity of previous popular dances. Now individuals could with minimum physical exertion stand alone or in formation doing the Stomp. The dance became popular among beatniks, ton up boys (pre-rockers) and surfies.

The term skiffle was originally used to describe Chicago jug bands of the 20's whose original sound came from replacing traditional instruments with kazoos, washboards, broom handle basses and liquor jugs. Lonnie Donegan was the champion, yet despite chart success in the States, the 'do it yourself' fifties fad died as quickly as it started. Although it did not contribute significantly to popular music per se, it did give prominence to the guitar as an instrument to be played. At first rock records had used guitars as music to listen to. Skiffle bands were often seen on stage wearing sandals (thongs) or sneakers. The fashion had been made popular at the Melbourne Olympics by the Japanese swimming team who wore them as sports sandals.

Around the same time, beatniks were usually young intellectuals, who followed the beat generation as typified by Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kourack, wore sandals or preferred to walk bare feet as an alternative break from convention. As the seventies approached many beatniks became hippies.

The term Ton-Up referred to bikers in the UK who travelled at 100 miles per hour on the new motorway system. These were different and considered tougher than the Teddy boys and their main obsession was with motor bikes. Their style included leather jackets with colours, jeans & studded belts, T Shirts and cowboy boots. Their music was distinctly Rock & Roll and they listened to it on jukeboxes, drinking coke or expresso, in coffee bars. Two distinctive characteristics of the new breed of delinquent was their walk, al la James Dean; and the new language of youth, 'Daddy-O'. Much preparation and pruning went into just looking 'cool'.

A must fashion accessory for the distinctive quaff was the ubiquitous hair comb and the more macho it looked the better.

'Flickcombs' were essential. Footwear took on a cowboy boot flavour. Not quite as ostentatious as the original Hollywood styles of the 30's but distinctly macho, none the less.

Their boots were similar to Mexican riding boots (or vaquero) and sat well on the bike but the shoe portion was made so tight it made walking difficult and often painful. As both boots were made on the same last they needed breaking in which may have accounted for the Ton Up boy’s aggressive behaviour.

Surfies particularly in Australia went barefoot and the Stomp was their preferred dance throughout the fifties and early sixties. Stomping was often so loud and potentially damaging to dance floors many dance halls banned the dance.

Reviewed 8/02/2016

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