Go-go dancing – femininity, individualism and anxiety in the 1960s

Gregory, Georgina orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7532-7484 (2018) Go-go dancing – femininity, individualism and anxiety in the 1960s. Film, Fashion & Consumption, 7 (2). pp. 165-177.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1386/ffc.7.2.165_1


Mainly performed by young women at nightclubs and discotheques, go-go dancing was a high-energy, free-form, dance style of the 1960s. Go-go dancers were employed to entertain crowds and to create a ‘cool’ ambience, wearing very revealing outfits including mini dresses, short-fringed skirts, tank tops, tight shorts and calflength boots. The dance style soon reached mainstream media platforms such as the US television show Hullabaloo and ABC’s Shindig, where girls could be seen suspended in clear plastic cages above the dancefloor. Before the Second World War partner dancing was the norm and social dance typically involved close physical contact, often as part of traditional courtship ritual. Moreover, most of the earlier dances required men to take the lead and to physically guide their female partner. A striking characteristic of go-go was the fact that girls usually danced alone, sometimes placed on podiums and often separate from the crowd. In this respect, go-go dancing can be viewed as an extreme extension of a growing trend towards solo dancing. The article explains how go-go dancing could be seen as reflecting social changes occurring during the 1960s, a time when gradual loss of faith in traditional sources of social guidance – religion, government, marriage – saw the rise of greater individualism. Women’s growing emancipation and a move towards selfdirection were embodied by go-go dancers, whose free style movements and rejection of formal steps metaphorically embody the dilemma of a generation of women facing an uncertain future.

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