The Dancing Days: Prologue

The whole city was dancing. Or so it seemed. Everywhere you looked you saw people finding it impossible to keep their feet still and their toes from tapping. They weren’t doing that only in the glittering palais de danse which studded Glasgow like twinkling stars in the night sky.

In students’ unions, clever, disillusioned young people kicked up their heels and kicked over the traces, cocking a snook at their elders and the horrors of the world those elders had made. Stamping their feet and shimmying, they laughed in delight when outraged parents and scandalized ministers condemned all dancing as lewd, immoral and shameless.

In spacious Victorian villas, Bright Young Things took equal pleasure in shocking the old, the religious and the staid. Then they lit up another cigarette and called for another cocktail.

In lavish art deco tea-rooms in Sauchiehall Street, middle-aged women disappointed by their husbands surrendered themselves to the smouldering passion of the tango: and made fools of themselves over the young men hired to dance it with them.

In tennis clubs in garden suburbs, couples who’d made it out of the slums before the Crash perfected the intricate steps of the foxtrot and the smooth glide of the waltz.

The people they’d left behind in the tenements danced too. How they danced. At street corners and in tram queues, shipyard apprentices, office clerks, factory lassies and the thousands who had nothing to do all day but collect their meagre dole gave themselves over to the exuberance of the Charleston. They supplied the accompaniment themselves, belting out the irresistible and compulsive beat – pah-pah, pah-pah, pah-pah-pah-pah, pah-pah – as they went along.

Once the drudgery of the working day was behind them, young men and women spruced themselves up, polished their dancing shoes, put on their best clothes and took to the floor in search of fun, relaxation and romance.

Countless marriages started at the dancing.

People whose paths might otherwise never have crossed met at the dancing.


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