Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Swinging to Big Band Beat; Dance Craze Took Nation by Storm

Newspaper article Tweed Daily News (Tweed Heads, Australia)

Swinging to Big Band Beat; Dance Craze Took Nation by Storm

Article excerpt

Byline: LOOKING BACK Di Millar

DANCING styles have changed dramatically over the past 100 years, but whatever the form it now takes people still enjoy taking to the dance floor.

Ballroom dancing was introduced to Australia in the early 1900s and showed a strong increase in popu- larity from the mid 1920s.

Prior to World War I, ragtime was introduced from America and it was followed by jazz after the war.

Another American style of dancing, the Charleston, was introduced in the mid 1920s.

From this time huge public dance halls known as dance palais were opened all over the country, with room for as many as 2000 dancers in those established in large metropolitan centres. Jazz was very popular in the dance halls and venues that became known as jazz halls. Dance studios followed as the demand for dance tuition grew.

Locally, new and old styles of dancing flourished. In country and town halls the ball season remained popular and weekly dances and combined euchre and dance parties were also well attended

In Murwillumbah jazz dances were held in the Imperial Hall that in 1924 also began operating as a picture theatre.

In 1929 when Murwillumbah's Regent Theatre was opened the dance floor was described as "one seething mass" of nearly 800 people celebrating the event.

The Gibson Brothers' Diggers Theatre opened in Coolangatta in 1920 and was built to accommodate 1000 people on a teak floor "carefully laid for dancing".

Coolangatta's Capitol Theatre opened to the public in 1924 and "special attention was paid to securing the best possible floor for dancing in the main hall" where "only the best-quality of 21/2-inch teak flooring is used and laid with the greatest care".

The hall was also designed to seat 1000 people.

The Cahill family who reopened the Imperial Hall as a theatre in Murwillumbah in 1924, in the same year took over the management of the Empire Theatre in Tweed Heads.

In 1927 the theatre's lessee Mr D W McLeod enlarged the Empire Theatre by lengthening the building and increasing the seating accommodation.

Mr McLeod built a new dancing pavilion next door to the theatre in 1928 and called it the Empire Dance Palais. …

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