The idea that dance is a great social institution doesn’t sound like it was very popular in the early 20th century. That isn’t to say that all social dance disappeared, because other forms of dance continued for a while — including the more sophisticated forms of jazz and rock-and-roll. However, these forms were not used in the same way that music and dance was developed during the later half of the century, though, because the social roles they took played less of a role in the 1950s.
In his book, “A Time to Play,” author David Vidal argues ballet was developed in France and Italy. It then spread to Canada, a country still on the threshold of social mobility into the 20th century.
“In many ways, ballet came out of the ‘new class’ — the workers, men, students with little money and little interest in art. It didn’t matter where the class came from because it had nothing to do with politics,” he writes in his book.
So why is ballet a social dance? What made it so popular back then? How did it rise to such a prominence during the 1950s?
The early days
“In France we had a lot of ‘new class’ people because of globalization after World War I — mainly factory workers — who were very active economically,” Bessie Dix, a professor at the School of Theology and Culture, University of Toronto, said in an interview. “In that world, you had dancers from a very close-knit class who came together and had a passion for art and music.
“In the 1950s and early-to-mid 1960s, people were coming at a very young age — people were coming into their 20s to marry and move out of their parents’ homes.”
A number of prominent figures, including ballet star Natalia Nenetty and the choreographers of the American band Bessie Davis, worked in New York.
The early 1950s was a golden age for dance in many ways.
In Europe, ballet music was popular. The French and Italian governments began to fund ballet in large part to educate young people about history and art and in part to create jobs.
“They invested in dance because people had a lot more to lose, and they were a lot more likely to lose their jobs,” Dix said.
Dix said the 1950s saw an influx of immigrants from a wide range of countries — a time that