Dancing and rock

As the heavy rock music emerged in the late 1960s, dances that would be performed to the music changed drastically to. There appeared to be a complete separation from the soul and Latin influences that had been clearly seen in rock and roll and appeared in disco music.

Some of the acts were so anti-authority and cynical towards any form of accepted practice that just to be associated with any type of dance was simply “not cool”. There was a complete breakaway from any form of group dance with people choosing to dance on their own, aiming to maintain a rhythm in time with the music.

Fans head banging at a concert

This was the era of the electrification of the instruments, and the way that people started to appreciate the artists was to mimic the playing performances of them. The performances of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton would have fans in the audience pretending to play the guitar while moving in time with the music.

The popularity of the air guitar has resulted in annual world championships of the dance and they have been in operation since 1996. The competitors are all trying to win the main prize –  guitar that has been donated by Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen.

As heavy metal emerged, audiences showed their appreciation with a form of dance known as “head banging”. First seen in 1969 at a Led Zeppelin concert in Boston, fans would jerk their heads up and down in rhythm to the music. The effect was made mesmeric by the fact that the followers of heavy rock generally had long hair.

This resulted in the effect being quite striking. This dance didn’t involve any feet movement, but it wasn’t the first time that a stationary dance had been created. Many of the Motown groups had used hand movements to the rhythm of the music but had needed to remain close to their fixed microphones.

There have been claims that punk rockers would head bang, but this was extremely rare, as the emergence of punk rock saw the creation of their own dance, “the pogo”. Invented by Sid Viscous of the Sex Pistols, the dance involved the participators jumping up and down with their arms held by their sides. They appeared like a pogo and it was a fast and frantic dance.

Fans “pogoing” and “moshing”

Soon “the pogo” evolved into “moshing”. This involved individual dances colliding with each other and was a violent action. It would be practiced by aggressive youths attracted to both punk and skinhead music and would often lead to violent outbursts during concerts.

As punk evolved, so did the style of dancing. People started to mix “the pogo” with other influences and from this emerged dance-punk. It was associated with the new-wave bands and would become a mix of funk movements with “the pogo” as well as lead to a very individual style of dancing, reflecting what punk had brought to the music scene.

During this period Ska music made a major impact on record charts in the UK, and one of the most popular bands was Madness. They appealed to many audiences and performed a dance that would involve them running on the same spot in time to the music. The faster the beat, the quicker they would run. They even named a record “One Step Beyond” after their own dance.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were a period when dances were changing as quickly as the music. There was great experimentation and some acts were as popular for their dance as they were for their records. Performers, such as Iggy Pop and David Byrne from the band Talking Heads, managed to produce individual dances that could be performed both in punk concerts, as well as being equally at home in discotheques

There was now a general breakaway from group dances to individual ones.