Aragon ballroom

By Caryl Clem:

In 1925, Americans felt secure in the promise of continuing prosperity. Uncle Sam is boldly standing on the Peak of Prosperity waving a banner proclaiming, “Highest Living Standard in the World” in a 1925 political cartoon. The Chicago Tribune’s slogan, The World’s Greatest Newspaper spread the influence of Chicago style living.  Andrew and William Karzas in 1926 built a lavish Spanish castle style ballroom complete with stars and clouds moving across the ceiling.  Alcohol was prohibited, crowd control was maintained by “chaperones” and a strict dress code was enforced.  Classy, glamorous entertainment with live band performances, in Uptown near the “L” propelled the Aragon Ballroom into an instant success.

Wayne King played his saxophone and led his band featuring all the favorite love songs with waltz and fox trot rhythms.  He started recording with RCA/Victor in 1929. In a ballroom that could hold thousands, Wayne King sold millions of his records.  During the 1930-40’s decades romance ruled the dance floor;  song titles such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – Cole Porter, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – Jerome Kern ,“Night and Day” – Cole Porter , “My Funny Valentine” – Rodgers and Hart“How Deep is the Ocean” – Irving Berlin .  Recorded in 2014 by Barbara Streisand and Michael Boule, a favorite of mine from this time period, “It Had To Be You”.

Radio was the main vehicle to transmit information and entertainment.  Chicago’s own WGN owned by the Tribune featured live broadcasts from the Aragon Ballroom since 1927. Not only were there stars twinkling in the ceiling but many star performers graced the Aragon Ballroom. In 1958, a fire next door to the Aragon closed it down for about 6 months.  When the Ballroom opened its doors again, dance styles and formality were changing. By 1964, the swanky ballroom dance era was over.  Top Hits from 1965 showcased The Beatles singing “Ticket to Ride”, “Help”, The Rolling Stones groaning about “Satisfaction” and the McCoy’s belting out, “Snoopy Hang On” introduced new styles of music entertainment. .

The Aragon hung on trying different venues such as wrestling, roller-skating and disco. Rock concerts lasting for 6 hours were held during the 1970’s.  Zack Snyder‘s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was filmed in 2015.  Eventually the new ownership in the 1970’s linked up with the promoters of Jam Productions. Currently, Aragon has hosted over 1,000 rock concerts in the last few years.  A picture of these events testifies to the ongoing popularity of entertainment.  In August 2019, the Chicago Sun-Times announced Byline Bank sponsors the Aragon, offering a full concert schedule of events that will start performing when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Photo found on Creative Commons “Aragon Ballroom Chicago IL.” by CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange is licensed under CC BY 2.

Hokey Pokey and the Bunny Hop

Once again, the kindergarten brain break video displays another old favorite that I could not believe popular.You put your right foot in, You take your right foot out, You put your right foot in, And you shake it all about, You do the hokey pokey And you turn yourself around, That’s what it’s all about. For me, it was Ray Anthony’s original hit version of the party dance favorite “The Hokey Pokey” released in 1952. And it was on the B side of the Bunny Hop record. The Bunny Hop dance was created by students at high school in San Francisco as a variation on the conga line and the dance soon caught on across the U.S. Participants dance in a line or a circle, holding on to the hips of the person in front of them. They tap the floor two times with their left foot, then with their right foot, then they hop forwards, backwards, and finally three hops forward to finish the sequence, which continues throughout the tune. The first person in the line or the open circle leads the group around the floor. Even as a child, I wasn’t as fond of the Bunny hop as the Hokey Pokey.

Both were extremely popular at at wedding receptions in which everyone in the 1950’s and 1960’s joined in. Even those who hated dancing, the Hokey Pokey always put a smile on the faces of those listening.

In 1942, Irish songwriter and publisher Jimmy Kennedy, best known for “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” created a dance, and an instructional song to go with it, called “The Hokey Cokey.” And other versions existed also but according to Mental Floss, the earliest accurate record,  from an account, dated 1857, of two sisters from Canterbury, England, on a trip to Bridgewater, New Hampshire. On their visit they taught the people they met a song: I put my their right hand in.. and on it went.

Today, every dancer and singer does the Hokey Pokey for children. Hokey Pokey is a popular children’s dance song becoming an award-winning CD, “All-Time Children’s Favorites”. Certainly, the Hokey Pokey Song is a old time favorite song.  However, many child educators believe the performers online today such as Debbie Doo Kids TV, Go Noodle, Jack Hartman Kids and the Learning Station that perform the Hokey Pokey helps to improve young children’s listening and instruction taking skills. Who would have thought from wedding receptions and 1960 parties to 2020 You Tube videos putting my right food in and shake it all about once again.

Go Noodle…I’m Still Standing and Footloose

There called brain breaks in elementary classrooms which I have talked about before.  In our kindergarten, its Go Noodle kids videos and it varies from year to year what the kids really enjoy. GoNoodle is free for teachers, parents, and kids! In addition to energizing content, GoNoodle has 300+ dance videos, mindfulness activities, and super engaging videos for kids!

Last year, the popular, always requested number was Boom Chicaka Boom-Moose Tube.  A favorite both years is also Koo Koo Kanga Roo, a comic team that does a variety videos that include a funny ride on a roller coaster and weird sounds, just to name a few. This year, right before the next animated movie came out, it was Snap Along with the Addams Family. But now a new hit has become the winning choice.

As the teacher selected the hit and it began to play, I wasn’t paying attention to the kids dancing on the screen. It was the music, the song that hit before I looked up. It was Elton John from 1982 when I’m Still Standing was released and played over and over…yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact when I hear the song one time, I can’t get the lyrics to stop playing in my head. And now I’m Still Standing is recorded by Go Noodle; a top hit in another decade. But it is the dance troup that the kids follow which is two girls and a boy that perform a variety of dance moves that the kids truly take the time to figure and follow. It is amazing to watch the kids become better after each time the video is played.

After researching Noodle Television, there are more from the Baby Boomers era from this kid trio including Footloose. Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a teenager from Chicago who moves to a small western town where he lives with his mother, aunt, and uncle. Throughout the movie, McCormack is seen attempting to overturn the ban on dancing, which resulted from the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow).

The movie received mixed reviews but the song by Kenny Loggins has been popular. Another Footloose movie came out in 2011 where city teenager, the same Ren MacCormack moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned, and his rebellious spirit shakes up the populace.

Lose your blues, kick off your Sunday shoes. The video has a row, top and bottom, of dancing shoes. When it first came out in the early 1980’s, many rock and roll fans thought it was a stupid song. Not anymore. Not for the elementary students today following their favorite dance troupe.