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[Detail] Cover of "How to Dance," 1878

Historical Issue-Analysis and Decision Making: Dance and Recreation

Many members of the anti-dance movement believed that the social vices often associated with dancing were extremely dangerous to children. In "The Lure of the Dance," former dance instructor T.A. Faulkner described how boys and girls interact after encountering one another at a dance:

Like a bird charmed by the glittering eyes of a serpent . . . the young man thinks he has fallen in love with this girl . . . It is then . . . that he realizes what it is to be a man . . . he tries to resist, but the temptation is too strong for him. The struggle is soon over . . . and against the convictions of his own conscience he finally yields to his desires, and when he leaves the girl his views of womanhood have undergone a complete change, never to be the same again.

page 36

Concern for children's welfare at dance halls is reinforced in the 1929 study, "Public Dance Halls, Their Regulation and Place in the Recreation of Adolescents," which reports that government inspectors found it difficult to involve parents in their children's recreational activities -- even when the children were under the legal age of attending a dance hall: "An inspector who had difficulty in gaining the cooperation of the mothers of girls said: "About 50 per cent . . . knew they were going to public dance halls and wanted to 'trust' them, etc.; the other 50 per cent were ignorant of their daughters' whereabouts," (page 32).

The study also included an account of children attending "closed hall events" where men who could not find partners at public dances hired girls to dance with them. In one city surveyed, girls were not allowed to work in these halls until they were 18. In another city, however, "no age limit seemed to be enforced and the girls were extremely young . . . Boys were usually not found in two cities where these halls were visited; but in a third city the majority of the 200 dancers were under 21, and many of the boys looked to be about 17," (page 34).

The study also claimed that many children attended these events because it was the only available source of recreation "to many farm boys and girls who came to the towns . . . to large numbers of young people who were working in industrial centers . . . and to many city boys and girls whose parents through poverty or ignorance made no provision for the social needs of their children," (page 1).

  • Do you think that stopping children from attending a dance might keep them from falling in love and struggling with personal temptation?
  • What is a parent's responsibility in letting a child learn to dance or attend dances?
  • Do you think that there should be an age limits fordances?
  • How would you reprimand children who violated the rules prohibiting children from "closed hall" events?
  • Do you think that children should be prohibited from attending dances even if it is their only available social activity? Do you think that other activities should be made available to these children? If so, what activities?
  • Do you think that parents should restrict their children from attending "adult functions"?
  • Do you think that parents are involved in their children's activities? Do you think they should be involved?
  • Can you think of any locations or events about which similar concerns are voiced today?
  • How do you spend your recreation time?
  • Do you think that you would want (or would have wanted) more or less parental involvement in your activities? Why?