Dance hall in its general meaning is a hall for dancing. From the earliest years of the twentieth century until the early 1960s, the dance hall was the popular forerunner of the discothèque or nightclub. The majority of towns and cities in the West had at least one dance hall, and almost always featured live musicians playing a range of music from strict tempo ballroom dance music to big band, swing and jazz. One of the most famous dance hall musicians was Glenn Miller.

Dance halls were common in the Old West. This photograph shows customers and staff at Hovey's Dance Hall in Clifton, Arizona, in 1884. The famous author Anton Mazzanovich is standing next to the tree at right.
A postcard from the early 20th century, showing the dance pavilion on Cedar Point, Ohio, built in 1882, then labeled "The largest Dance Floor on Lake Erie".
The Dance Hall at Toledo Beach in Michigan, 1906

Other structural forms of dance halls include the dance pavilion which has a roof but no walls, and the open-air platform which has no roof or walls. The open air nature of the dance pavilion was both a feature and a drawback. The taxi dance hall is a dance hall with a specific arrangement, wherein the patrons hire hall employees to dance with them.

The early days of rock n' roll were briefly played out in dance halls until they were superseded by nightclubs.

United StatesEdit

Commercial dance halls in the United States began to appear toward the end of the nineteenth century and grew in popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century. These halls were generally frequented by working-class and/or immigrant teenagers that admired dance halls for their lack of chaperoning and convenience as cheap commercial leisure. The rapidly changing economy of the early twentieth century shifted the views many young adults had about the separation between work and leisure, increasing dance hall popularity from the 1900s into the 1920s.[1][2][3]

With increased financial freedom, as compared to prior decades, young immigrant and working-class women were able to access dance halls, generally placed within urban areas, that did not require chaperones. Dance halls allowed young working-class women the opportunity to step outside of their extremely stressful home and work environments while not costing too much, or anything in some cases.[2][4] These city dance halls were especially popular with newly independent immigrant women from more rural areas as country-side dances were often more closely monitored and tended to host styles of dancing that were considered more socially acceptable for performance in public spaces. The styles performed in city dance halls had dancing partners physically close, performing movements that would allow for limbs and body parts to graze each other in ways not seen in other partnered dance forms of the time.[3]

Although interests in dance halls were growing, halls attracted negative attention from moral reformers and the media for the types of dancing done at these establishments, the sexual independence these environments allowed women, and the difficulty of regulating dance halls.[5] Simple dance moves were already seen as morally wrong by select religious groups prior to the popularity of dance halls but with the additions of possibilities for prostitution, as well as access to alcohol, within dance halls reformers and religious leaders were increasingly against the existence of these halls. In order to discourage young adults from frequenting dance halls, media of the early twentieth century used subjective and inflammatory language to sway readers toward ideas that dance halls would morally corrupt young women while reformers petitioned to their local governments for regulation surrounding dance halls.[1][2][3]

In 1917, through the assistance of the Fosdick Commission, a Board was organized in Louisville, Kentucky to standardize the public dance halls. Many young people, lacking in proper discrimination, attempted the irregular dancing in vogue in the commercial halls in the settlement house's dance hall, leading to a continual disagreement. A resident would say to a new couple dancing irregularly, "You can't dance that way in this hall." The couple in self-defense would answer, "I can dance that way in every other hall in the city."[6]

Starting in the early 1930s, The Savoy, a dance hall in Harlem (a black neighborhood in New York City) was the first truly integrated building in the United States — for both the dancers and the musicians. "We didn't care about the color of your skin. All we wanted to know was: Can you dance?"[7]

Texas has a high concentration of community dance halls, the largest number of them built by German and Czech immigrants.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

Sweden and FinlandEdit

The Sivakan lava dance pavilion in Sivakkavaara, Kaavi, Finland has a history of more than a hundred years, as according to some sources, dances have been held on pavilion since 1907.[15][16]

In Sweden and Finland, open air dance pavilions have been used mostly in summer, but especially in Finland some have also been built to be used throughout the year. Formerly, the dance pavilions were often built at sites with beautiful landscape, for example by the lakes.[17][18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Thiel-Stern, Shayla (2014). From the dance hall to Facebook : teen girls, mass media, and moral panic in the United States, 1905-2010. Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 978-1-61376-309-4. OCLC 896890201.
  2. ^ a b c McBee, Randy D. (2000). Dance hall days : intimacy and leisure among working-class immigrants in the United States. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-585-48068-0. OCLC 53482661.
  3. ^ a b c Jensen, Joan M. (2001). ""I'd Rather Be Dancing": Wisconsin Women Moving On". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 22 (1): 1–20. doi:10.2307/3347065. ISSN 0160-9009. JSTOR 3347065.
  4. ^ Fritz, Angela (March 2018). "'I was a Sociological Stranger': Ethnographic Fieldwork and Undercover Performance in the Publication of The Taxi-Dance Hall , 1925-1932: The Publication of The Taxi-Dance Hall, 1925-1932". Gender & History. 30 (1): 131–152. doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12340. S2CID 149070043.
  5. ^ Keire, Mara L. (May 2016). "Swearing Allegiance: Street Language, US War Propaganda, and the Declining Status of Women in Northeastern Nightlife, 1900–1920". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 25 (2): 246–266. doi:10.7560/JHS25202. ISSN 1043-4070. S2CID 146636665.
  6. ^ National Conference of Social Work (U S.) Session (1919). Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work at the ... Annual Session Held in ... (Public domain ed.). The Conference. p. 507. Retrieved 27 April 2022.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Burns, Ken. Jazz (2001), TV documentary
  8. ^ Folkins, Gail. "Texas Dance Halls: History, Culture, and Community", Journal of Texas Music History, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2006.
  9. ^ Whitson, Krista. Alter, Kevin, ed. "Dance Halls of Central Texas: Pre-World War II Wooden Structures". Austin, 2005. First in-depth survey of the dance halls populating central Texas. Documents 72 of these structures within a 150-mile radius of Austin through photographs and drawings
  10. ^ Treviño, Geronimo III. Dance Halls and Last Calls: A History of Texas Country Music. Republic of Texas Press, 2002.
  11. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2003-03-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ Kolar, Roger Henry. Early Czech dance halls in Texas, 1975.
  13. ^ Austin County Historical Commission, ed. Dance Halls of Austin County, Bellville: Austin County Historical Commission, 1993.
  14. ^ Dean, Stephen, "Historic Dance Halls of East Central Texas". Arcadia Publishing. 2014.
  15. ^ "Sivakan lavalla vaalitaan tanssiperinteitä". YLE (in Finnish). 3 June 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  16. ^ Koillis-Savo (#51), p. 4, June 26, 2014. (in Finnish)
  17. ^ Hakulinen, Kerkko; Yli-Jokipii, Pentti. Tanssilavakirja: tanssista, lavoista ja lavojen tansseista. Helsinki: AtlasArt, 2007. ISBN 978-952-5671-07-0 (in Finnish)
  18. ^ Yli-Jokipii, Pentti. "Changes in local communities: The cultural geography of Finnish open-air dance pavilions". Fennia 174:2. Helsinki: Geographical Society of Finland, 1996.

Further readingEdit

  • Cressey, Paul. The Taxi-Dance Hall: A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life (1923; reprint University of Chicago Press 2008), Famous study of Chicago in the 1920s.
  • Nott, James. Going to the Palais: A Social And Cultural History of Dancing and Dance Halls in Britain, 1918-1960 (2015)

External linksEdit