gmhTODAY 04 gmhToday Sep Oct 2015 - Page 46

Oh That Wicked Jazz Dancing! “Polite society has tabooed it in larger cities. Young girls are ignorant of this tough dance, or they would not consent to learn it or dance with those who do. Better cut it out now, than to have it ruin our dances.” The Gilroy Advocate, 1912 F rom 1896 to 1918, a fresh music craze swept the nation. Called Ragtime, the music was popular- ized by such composers as Scott Joplin and Irvin Berlin, whose catchy piece, “Alexander’s Rag Time Band,” was enjoyed from sheet piano music in home parlors. New dances sprang up to accompany the captivating tempo. Called the Grizzly, Castle Walk, and the Shag, the dance sensa- tions shocked decent Americans. “Before Ragtime fastens itself upon our young 46 people, let us investigate the source of this latest fad,” the Gilroy Advocate Editor bemoaned. “The rag dance comes from the Barbary Coast dance hall, where sailors and low men and women nightly revel in this pastime.” The Grizzly was particularly shocking, with its awkward, heavy side steps during which the dance partners shouted, “It’s a bear!” One move had the woman hurl- ing herself at the man, wrapping her body around his. Abandoned quickly, this dance GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2015 was soon replaced with the Turkey Trot, composed of four hopping steps sideways, first on one leg, then on the other, followed by quick stops and fast trots. To the dismay of teachers, parents and church leaders, the popular dances also hit Gilroy, where they were roundly con- demned as ungainly contortions. “If we now wish to be up to date and modern, we seek out the dregs of society and faithfully copy their misbehavior and vulgarity,” the local newspaper complained.