Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mod Gone Wrong: The 'Mod' Dance

Ever wonder what the correct way to dance 'mod' is? Well, a few days ago, Parka Avenue posted a great video on Facebook. Now, take a moment, appreciate the lack of music to focus in on the actual dance steps, and learn a thing or two.

Feel like taking a fork and plucking your eyeballs out? Yup, I know how you feel. Don't get me wrong... I've no doubt these are 'professional' dancers. But, my god... that guy's horrible Beatle wig, peace necklace, and shirt made my skin crawl. And don't even get me started on that woman's stripper "go-go" boots! (Although her micro-mini-skirt is Mod Male-approved.) Then, you toss in all that hopping and those regimented dance moves we've seen over the years on-screen ranging from Troop Beverly Hills to Dancing With the Stars and I just can't take it. Things like this make me think, "Man, I hate the sixties!" until I look in the mirror and realize, "No, I don't."

Look, I know some of these dances were performed and popularized in the sixties. It was the times, making a dance fad out of anything possible. These days, however, my guess is that these dances are usually reserved for 1960s-themed costume parties across the nation.

Now, although the instructional video above refers to those dances as 'mod' and although there's a chance that some of these dances might have been performed by actual Mods in the sixties, I'm guessing that a lot of Mods were most likely dancing to a different set of dance moves... dance moves created in the clubs and then broadcast on the weekly Ready, Steady, Go!

I love watching these clips of actual 1960s-era Mod kids getting down with their foot-steppin'. This is the stuff that has inspired so many over the years. The foot shuffles, the ankle twists, the hip shakes... that's how you work it! From what I've read, the popularity of these dance steps changed as often as the fashions. Things are different today though.

Personally, I don't do the Freddie. I don't do the Underarm Scratch (or whatever that guy in the top video was doing). And, so help me God, I definitely do NOT do the Batman.  I do lean more toward the foot movements demonstrated on Ready, Steady, Go! But, you don't have to be tied to any of these moves to dance 'mod'. And you definitely DON'T need to dance like the couple in the first video. In fact, please please please spare us those dance moves!

Here's a secret for you: I used to HATE dancing. When I was in 7th grade, I asked a drill team member to be my date to the first dance of the year. Surprisingly, she said yes! She had to work the refreshment stand at the dance so I had to meet her there, but I didn't care. I was on my first junior high dance date! When Stacey Q's 'Two of Hearts' hit the speakers, she and I jumped on that dance floor and got down! Well... I thought I was getting down. I remember the exact dance I was doing: the same dance Lisa Bonet did on the Cosby Show opening credits. I thought I was doing pretty well until the one nerd kid at the dance started making fun of my dance moves. Yes, I was so bad that even the class NERD looked cooler than I did.

That was the last time I danced... until I learned how to 'skank' a few years later. Of course, I was even doing that dance pretty badly. I was doing the running-in-place skank. Ugh. I was even more hesitant to dance when I started going to Mod parties. Some of these guys were great, but I had less rhythm than that character on the Fresh Prince show.

Things changed though. One night, well into the early morning when one of these parties was still going on, a few people started dancing to Small Faces videos. One of them grabbed me to join, but I was too nervous. Luckily, I was also a little drunk so I gathered up the courage and just went for it. No one made fun of me, despite the fact that my feet were not moving to the songs playing. But it didn't matter... no one cared. We were all just there to have fun! It wasn't a game to see who could dance the coolest. It was just a chance to dance to awesome music with your buddies.

Despite that experience, I did want to try learning how to dance a little better. I did want to try learning how to make use of rhythm. There was one image I really took to in the Mods (Richard Barnes, page 52) book... an image of a kid about to unleash some massive dancefloor magic:

I wanted to learn whatever move this kid was doing. That's when I started to study old videos. I wasn't looking at instructional videos, like above. I wasn't looking at videos of people dancing "sixties"-style. Naw, I went straight to the masters. If you're new to this whole thing, I definitely recommend the same. No, none of us will ever be as good as these guys, but it'll give you some great direction. And notice the most important thing. Everyone in these videos just moves so effortlessly. They're not thinking about their steps. 

Take Sam and Dave, for instance. Dig on this whole piece, but if you want to get straight to their steps, check out the 3:23, 4:04, and 4:34 marks:

Whew! I gotta loosen up my collar after that!

Of course, when you think of soul dancing, I'm sure James Brown is the # 1 guy you think of and for good great reason! Here he is, doin' his thing with Sammy Davis, Jr. If you go out onto a Mod dancefloor, chances are you'll see at least 3 people trying to work these moves.

I said before that I don't really like doing regimented 1960s dance moves. Y'know why? Because the early '70s happened. As much as I like sixties music, it's those early seventies funky dances that can really get one to steppin'! Some of those dances can be as mellow and controlled as Michael Jackson here at the 2:24 mark:

Or, you can just go all out and really let loose, 1971 Soul Train-style (to Curtis Mayfield, no less)! These dances may not really be 'Mod,' but, hell, who cares? If you got funky moves like this, you shouldn't keep them hidden.

And now, there are even more modern dance moves to try borrowing from. Check out Aloe Blacc here, lookin' slick and lookin' hip, all while gettin' his groove on:

Mods of today, you know how this works: take a little of the old and mix it with some of the new. Apply that to your dance style and roll with it!

I didn't get much into Northern Soul dancing here because, frankly, I'm not super into it. Don't get me wrong, I think some of those dancers are amazing! I know a couple who blow minds out on the dance floor. But, I absolutely HATE talcum powder on a dance floor. And, I'm not really into those feet sweeping moves. Personally, I think more Mod dancers ought to shake their hips more and pick those feet & knees up when they're dancing (see Sam & Dave above)! But like I said, when you got good Northern Soul dancers out on the dancefloor, they really rock that floor.

I'm not a great dancer, but I do like having a good time at Mod/Soul/whatever dances. You might not be a good dancer either, but that's not the point of all this. Forget regimented dances like the Monkey or the Frug. Forget the idea of 'Mod' dances. JUST GROOVE. But... try groovin' well! And try not to step on your neighbor's toe.


  1. As usual: WON-DER-FUL!!!I completely agree with you!

  2. Are those vintage Bonneville and Mooneyes tee shirts in that Ready Steady Go vid or are my eyes decieving me, hmmm - I like that gal's style in the madras shirt with the bun updo in the beginning of it, and thanks for the cool post...

  3. Billy Preston strutting his stuff...The moves! The suit!

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