Just recently, several friends who are roughly my age told me that they'd never learned to waltz. I don't know why but it really surprised me. I guess I just figured that everyone was put through some excruciating hours in their home with an older family member teaching the steps over and over until you stopped stepping on their feet. I knew some kids who had to go to real social and dancing lessons. They were taught table manners, how to curtsy, walking with a book on their heads and other civilising graces. Then they'd come to school and share the torture with us in the schoolyard. Fortunately we weren't wealthy enough for me to suffer that.
Our lessons were at home, in the dining room or wherever there was floorspace. It all started when you were very young, too. My Father let me stand on top of his feet 'til I began to learn how my feet were supposed to move. There were plenty of dances to go to in those days, too. You were often pushed out onto the floor to dance with some little boy who was as miserable as you and from whom you ran as soon as the music ended. Years later, my Stepfather taught me the fancier steps. Foxtrot, Lindy, the Big Apple, the full Charleston, , the Jitterbug, the polka variations, the Stroll. He was an Arthur Murray instructor and I still recall polka-ing in platform shoes with him at a dangerously fast rate in 1975. I refused to disco. The disco culture skeeved me. That's when my dancehall days ended, until I met my husband and we went clubbing in the 80s.
Of course by then nobody was dancing those old dances. We were doing strange "new wave" moves, or slam-dancing, or what had become a generic two-step "slow dance" at the end of the night. He and I would waltz now and then at home, or when we went out for New Year's Eve. I last danced a waltz with a guy who'd apparently never learned how. I think that was 1994. I can't dance these days, my shoes are bronzed and permanently hung. Figuratively, anyway.
So who among us was taught to dance those standard dances? I'm curious to know if it was only a regional or maybe just an inner-city thing to teach kids to dance back in those '50s-'60s days.