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Teens Behaving Awkwardly: A Look at the 1970s High School Dance

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Ah, yes.  The High School Dance.  A source of much anxiety, subtle humiliation, and maybe even a little fun.  For some reason, they are defining moments in our high school memories.  Perhaps, it’s because so much stock was put in them back then – your self-esteem and popularity depended on this oh-so-important evening.  Adding to the gravity of the situation was the fact that you  were no Travolta on the dance floor, so things could get a wee bit awkward when the music pepped up.

So let’s take a look at a bunch of photographs, primarily taken in the early 1970s.  It was an time before disco, but after Woodstock.  It had a little bit of the flavor of both the 60s and 70s, but plenty of teen awkwardness to go around.  Enjoy.

 

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I’m no dance expert, but I think these guys are doing it wrong.  Judging by the guy on the left’s upraised thumbs and left leg, I think it’s safe to assume this is not one of his finer moments.  The dude on the right is clearly an  embarrassment to his date who’s keeping a safe distance from potentially harmful herky-jerky movements.

 

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(L) His date is making no attempt at concealing her fright at his Caucasian rhythm. At least he seems to be having a good time.  (R) The slow dance is always a relief – no special moves or skills required; just sway awkwardly with girl attached.

 

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Notice to guys: It may be a relief to no longer look like an epileptic clown, and finally get up-close and personal with your date…. but try to reign your enthusiasm in.  Getting overly frisky at the first slow-dance may backfire – give her time to forget your dancefloor embarrassment.

 

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Shut up and dance.   If you’re out on the dance floor flapping your gums, that’s a clear indicator you are too self-conscious to actually dance. Quit your jibba-jabba and start shakin’ that money maker.

 

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(L) She seems to have come to the realization that she has made a horrible, horrible mistake. (R) At frist glance, I though the girl in the black dress was sadly dancing alone… then I realized there’s a guy behind her, and she’s coming to the same realization.

 

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Slobbering all over her temple while proclaiming your undying love may not the wisest move.  A free suggestion: Maybe just let “”How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”” play, and keep your lips sealed.

 

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(L) You’ll note this fella is holding a crown – obviously a prom or homecoming king.  Not to make any judgements on his appearance, but suffice it say that things were different back then.  (R) You’ve got to cut these boys a little slack – it’s hard to get dance fever in the same room where you play dodgeball.

 

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(L) I’m sure it’s a kiss below mistletoe at the Christmas dance, but it looks like their gnawing at low hanging vegetation.  (R) Perhaps we’ve been too hard on the guys.  The ladies could be just as awful to behold on the dance floor.

 

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The guy at left is keeping his eyes firmly shut in the vain hope that it will dull the anxiety and embarrassment .  At right is what he’s picturing in his head.  In the movies, dances are always hoppin’ good times, not self-conscious exercises in public humiliation.  We’ve all been fed lies!

dracula dance

Speaking of movies, it would just be wrong to have an article on pictures from dances from 1970-1972 and not have one from Dracula AD 1972.

 

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(L) Dances of 1971 were….. (how do I put this delicately?)…. different than today.  (R) Not cool dude.  As I said, the slow dance is not your green light to cop a feel.

 

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(L) Size differential can sometimes be an issue.  I hate to sound shallow, but choose your partner with height equivalence in mind.  (R) It’s easy to be too focused on performing well on the dance floor.  Theis guy clearly has the eye of the tiger, but has lost track of not only his date, but of reality itself.  Somebody snap him out of it – it’s time for a punch break.

 

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What you haven’t seen in the previous pictures are the walls lined with those taking a breather (and scattered wallflowers).  I haven’t been to a dance in many-a-year, but I can imagine the scene looks much the same, except everyone would be on their smartphone.

 

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I can’t help but wonder what song is playing.  If I had to hazard a guess it would be “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” by The Temptations.

 

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(L) What in God’s Most Holy Name are these two doing?  Free tip: If your dancing starts to resemble a tribal masturbation ritual, it may be time to take a punch break.  (R) Another tip: Always get your pictures taken at the start of the dance. Trust me: in a few short minutes, you will be a sweaty disheveled nightmare.

 

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Truly a dance pioneer – twerking forty years before it became popular.

 

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I don’t care if you’re Danny Terrio, you do not want to get caught putting on a show for the crowd. There’s safety in numbers. The last thing you want is the spotlight on you and your poor rhythm and armpit stains.

But in the end, it’s all in good fun.  Acting the fool is an integral part of being a teenager.  It was 1973 and life was good – lots of great music, miniskirts and marijuana.  Soon, things would change… the disco era was just a few years away….

1981

 

 

  • Freakanatcha

    Re: Just My Imagination. Your guess is incorrect. The song is “Colour My World” by Chicago. How do I know? I can tell from the girl on the left. One always has that expression when listening to a lame song with a pretentious spelling of the title.

  • AlanOne7

    I went to my class reunion a few years ago and found that photographing people dancing gets you some weird results. Half the people have their backs turned and the other half look like they’re playing charades. (Ditto for most news and sports photography) These schools had some good-looking girls though. Good post.

  • The4thStooge

    No matter how “corny” these fashions look (they don’t), the “fashions” of the early 90s were truly horrible to behold. For every timelessly dressed kid, there were 10 more that looked like Vanilla Ice/MC Hammer/The Fly Girls (from In Living Color). We didn’t even have the goodness that was 70s music (yes, even disco!)