Sun, May

Where have all the dance hall's gone?

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The East Delta Hall stands Sphinx like off the 99 highway in Delta, BC. Built in a rural area, it is surrounded by farmers fields and encroaching commercial operations. The hall stands as a "drive-by" reminder of the “Social” that was once played out regularily on Friday and Saturday nights.

It was on one of these "drive-by's" (on my way to some where else) that I noticed a vehicle out side and decided to stop and see for myself.  It resulted in an invitation to look inside, to take off my "Virtual Community" eyes and look into the real world interior of this grand structure beneath it’s arched roof line and crisp coat of trimed white paint. It was looking into the past and once thriving culture that thrived in the social provided by the local community.

The arched roof provides a clear span of the buildings balconied interior. The sprung dance floor creaks as I walk on and it reminds me of the complex interaction between the dancer’s foot and the floor. The waltz, jive, two step and the once a night “Chautise”, that played everyone out and set the stage for the recovery and the race for your next partner. 

Neighbours, holiday’s, town-hall meetings, and “Hatch, Match and Dispatch” gatherings were all reasons to celebrate;East Delta Hall but the community dance was also the vehicle that taught us our roots, manners and the social boundary’s that we are losing today. 

Before the advent of hip-hop, disco, the Beatles, and even before Rock and Roll, there was the sound of the big bands, and the era of the dance hall. In the 40’s (before my time), ‘50’s, 60’s, and on into the 80’s, if you wanted to go out with friends, go on a date, meet a girl (or guy), dance, or just enjoy some music, you went to a local dance hall or supper club. In Vancouver, one of the places to swing was the Commodore on Granville or the Breakers in Point Roberts amongst many others.

In British Columbia, there were over a hundred popular venues. Many of the dance halls no longer exist; they have been demolished to make way for business and residential expansion. We are having a serious local-dance crisis. Yesterday's kids were Gettin’ Lite and doing the Chicken Noodle Soup and the Soulja Boy not that long ago, now they are adults and jumping around postage stamps sized dance floors. But have you tried Gettin’ Lite? It practically requires an instruction manual and two feet of clear space around you. Good luck pulling that off at a party.

Clearly we’re not dancing the way we did even five years ago. What has happened?

It’s not that dancing is vanishing. In one sense, it is more popular than ever. On television alone, there have been no fewer than four dance shows: “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “America’s Best Dance Crew,” and “Step It Up & Dance.” On the Internet, one of YouTube’s No. 1 “top favorite” videos is the goofy “Evolution of Dance” amongst many others that cover every dance genre past and present.

But it’s no coincidence that as dancing explodes in popularity on TV, it’s harder to find at locally at bars, the average party or at any local community hall. What’s popular on these shows and clips isn’t dancing - it’s second-hand dancing.

Where once we were a culture eager to dance in the community, we’re suddenly OK to drink our beer and sit back and watch. In the same sense that we watch more sports than we actually play, we seem to be letting the professionals do our dancing for us, too. And as we outsource our dance aspirations to professionals, something important is lost.


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