September 5, 2013

From the Editor: Dancers behaving badly? Nothing new there


This Miley Cyrus VMA thing just won't go away.

For those of you fortunate enough to not know what I'm talking about, the former "Hannah Montana" star and most recent graduate of the Walt Disney School of Destroyed Childhoods caused an uproar last month when she fondled a foam finger and twerked Robin Thicke on the MTV Video Music Awards. (Personally, I was more disturbed by the mass teddy bear molestation by Cyrus' backup dancers. Somewhere, Teddy Ruxpin is quivering in a dark corner.)

Cyrus finally broke her silence regarding the controversy in an interview clip posted Tuesday on MTV's website: "You're thinking about it more than I thought about it. I didn't even think about it because that's just me."

So, to recap, Cyrus doesn't think much. Big surprise there.

Teddy bears and foam fingers aside, most of the controversy involved Cyrus' "twerking" with Thicke. Again, for those of you fortunate enough not to know what "twerking" is, it's a dance craze that involves thrusting your hips in a sexually provocative manner toward your partner. And now I have to apologize twice for educating you on something you could have spent the rest of your life happily not knowing.

For those outraged by twerking, take a few moments to remember that this isn't the first time a popular dance has caused an uproar. Dances like:

Freaking -- Grinding your backside against someone's front side in a sexually suggestive manner. Sort of like twerking in reverse, this was banned from high school dances nationwide in the '00s. Known as "phreaking" for the high-brow set and/or those who couldn't spell.

The Lambada -- Made popular by the 1990 movie of the same name, this was once known as "the forbidden dance" in its birthplace, Brazil. The dance moves themselves aren't that risque, but when the dancers wore miniskirts, as most of them did, all the twirling and lifting tended to reveal more than just some mad dance skills.

The Hustle -- This one wasn't really controversial. It just brings up visions of my friends' moms doing it in their living rooms in polyester pantsuits, thus scarring me for life.

The Twist -- When the late, great Dick Clark first saw a couple of teenagers doing this dance on "American Bandstand," he thought it was so vulgar, he forbade the cameramen from showing them on air. Once the song became a minor hit, though, he changed his tune, and suggested that his friend Chubby Checker record it. And the rest, shall we say, is hip-story. (Sorry.)

The Lindy Hop -- More commonly known as the Jitterbug, this dance originated in Harlem nightclubs in the late 1920s. White parents were aghast when their children started lindy-hopping to Glen Miller and Benny Goodman because of its connection to zoot-suited gangsters and the fact that girls' dresses would fly up while executing the dance moves -- but mostly because it originated in Harlem.

The Waltz -- Yes, the waltz. In the late 18th century, members of high society used to the minuet were absolutely horrified when young people had the audacity to place their arms around each other on the dance floor. "But when he put his arm around her, pressed her to his breast, cavorted with her in the shameless, indecent whirling-dance of the Germans and engaged in a familiarity that broke all the bounds of good breeding -- then my silent misery turned into burning rage," wrote German novelist Maria Sophie von La Roche in describing the deplorable act.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:


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