Twist

74 minutes 1992

An exemplary and entertaining history (1992) of a crucial decade in North American social dancing, from the time of Arthur Murray ballroom lessons and the lindy hop in Harlem around 1953 to freestyle dancing and the arrival of the Beatles in the U.S. in 1964. Ron Mann—whose former features have investigated free jazz (Imagine the Sound), poetry (Poetry in Motion), and comic books (Comic Book Confidential)—combines a collector's zeal for exhaustive inventories (all the ephemeral dance steps are duly noted) with a sharp sense of social history, so along with the pleasure of watching all sorts of 50s and 60s clips and new interviews, one gets a sense of how dance styles developed and were merchandised. Among the highlights are a white couple explaining how, for their appearance on American Bandstand, they were coached to claim credit for the strand, a dance developed by blacks, and an interview with Marshall McLuhan, who expounds on the twist being “like conversation without words.”

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