Freak Dancing Barred at Chevy Chase Lake
In the summer of 1912, the management of Chevy Chase Lake announced that “freak dancing” was barred at the amusement park. On June 12, 1912, p. 7, The Washington Times reported:
“Freak Dancing is barred at Chevy Chase Lake. Those in charge of the amusement resort have announced that out of consideration for the public ‘none of the latest, the bunny wiggle, or the grizzly hug,’ will be permitted upon the pavilion at the lake. All dance lovers must confine themselves to the old straight away waltz and two-step. Even in these no fancy steps will be permitted.” [Emphasis added.]
The Chevy Chase Glide
But by August, a dance called the “Chevy Chase Glide” had developed, to the chagrin of many residents of Chevy Chase. On August 2, 1912, The Washington Post published an article on page 12 about the new dance, “Outre Chevy Chase Glide Make Turkey Trot and Bunny Hug Tame:”
“Residents of Chevy Chase are up in arms over the dances that are being practiced at an amusement park, and it comes from a well known source that a movement will be started to suppress the outrage, as it is termed, by the residents of that section. The dance in question originated at a suburban resort and is officially known as the “Chevy Chase Glide.”
The article includes a detailed description of this new dance:
“In order to execute this dance properly, a person must have a talent for dancing to irregular time, as the participants do not go through the movements with any attempt at grace or rhythm. The man takes his lady fair around the waist, draws her face over his right shoulder, and, instead of dancing to the music, just walks through the movements that they would execute if they were doing the turkey trot or bunny hug.”
“Managers of the several amusement parks near this city are congratulating themselves on suppressing the turkey trot. This zeal is very commendable, no doubt, but in their effort to stamp out this form of dancing they overlook another form [the Chevy Chase Glide] which is more than disgusting, and allow it to continue without interruption,” said [Mr. John Holbrook] Chapman yesterday.”
Eubie Blake's "Chevy Chase Fox-Trot"
Perhaps this controversy inspired Eubie Blake to name one of his 1914 compositions “The Chevy Chase Fox-Trot.” By then he was working for James Reese Europe’s dance orchestra which accompanied Vernon and Irene Castle, the premier interpreters of the new dances. The Castles not only popularized – and sanitized – the turkey trot and the tango, but their choice of an African American band influenced members of the white upper class society like the Astors and the Vanderbilts to hire black conductors and musicians for their dances and social events.
Eubie Blake, The Chevy Chase Fox-Trot. New York: Jos. W. Stern, 1914. Historic American Sheet Music Project, Duke University David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
On the next page, learn more about the Castles and Dancing Lessons at Chevy Chase Lake.