When it comes to popular television dance programs, many would argue that American Bandstand and Soul Train totally dominated the field. Soul Train, in particular, influenced style and introduced some of the hippest dance moves for a generation. However, there were several teen dance shows, some syndicated and others local, that predate and postdate these two classics.
From bobby socks and saddle shoes to bell bottoms and afros, from the Funky Chicken to the Robot, young people have shown just how much they’ve enjoyed their culture with fashion, music, and dance all while in front of a television camera. Listed below are just a few reminders — and blasts from the past.
The Buddy Deane Show aired from 1957 to 1964 on WJZ-TV (Channel 13 – the ABC affiliate station) in Baltimore and was often compared to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, which aired out of Philadelphia. It was on for 2 ½ hours, 6 days per week and the teens who appeared on the show were known as “The Committee.” Even though a show featuring only black teenagers was set aside for every other Friday, The Buddy Deane Show was pulled from the air due to the home station’s unwillingness to integrate black and white dancers.
Future Shock was produced and hosted by singer James Brown from 1976 to 1979. Filmed in Augusta and Atlanta, Georgia, and broadcast on Friday nights, Future Shock showcased locals performing emerging dance styles. The Godfather of Soul and his musical guests would sometimes perform. The show also featured dance contests, interviews, and segments on African American history. Whether or not this was Brown’s east coast answer to Don Cornelius’ west coast Soul Train, Future Shock was syndicated nationwide but ceased production within three years after the failure to attract sponsors.
Dance Fever aired weekly in syndication from 1979 to 1987. Created by Merv Griffin and Murray Schwartz, Dance Fever is more reminiscent of Dancing with the Stars than that of other teen dance shows. With choreographer Deney Terrio as host, dancing couples displayed their skills in a competition for cash prizes with various celebrities serving as judges. Nevertheless, as with similar shows, there would be a segment where some of the top pop, R&B, and disco artists would perform their latest hits with lots of disco fever in the air.
The Party Machine with Nia Peeples was the brainchild of late-night talk show host Arsenio Hall. Although it was created to be an after-party to his Arsenio Hall Show, it only lasted from January to September 1991. Party Machine’s aim was to be a platform for both established and breaking urban acts. The program featured several dance floors, conversation pits for interviews, a non-alcoholic bar, and performances by some of the hottest artists in music.
Music has always inspired dance moves and vice versa. A few songs were even written to accompany a new dance. One dance craze, the Watusi, is also the traditional name of Africa’s Tutsi people, who were known for their elaborate dances. No matter the dance or the era, many of us grew up with eyes glued to our television sets as we watched our favorite dance shows, sometimes dancing right along.
Photo: Don Cornelius with The Staple Singers on “Soul Train” (public domain)
PS — While we’re on the topic of Rock History, you might enjoy our YouTube series of daily one-minute nuggets of memorable moments…