Dances are so boring these days! They don’t even have names for them, you simply stand there and writhe, or jump up and down, or — if you’re lucky — crowd-surf a bit.
But in the olden days of the 1960s, recording artists were falling all over themselves to invent and name new dances. The most famous was the Twist, allowing you to stand, stoned out of your mind on acid, in one spot and just swivel your hips while churning your arms at your sides. Other obvious steps followed, including the Swim and the Frug, the latter driven by thrusting your arms out straight from your shoulders and making a series of other arcane arm movements. There was the Watusi, too, based on an African tribal dance.
Some of the most memorable were the dances with culinary themes. One, inspired by a song by Dee Dee Sharp, was called the Mashed Potato, and it was re-popularized in all its absurdity by the movie Hairspray. It involved pushing your hands downward while rotating the balls of your feet in opposite directions and kicking your legs out sideways one at a time as if you were smashing spuds, and the rest of the go-go moves were pretty much up to you. Elaine’s famous dance in Seinfeld is a variation.
There were many more food-themed dance numbers. Joey and the Starliters had a smash hit with the Peppermint Twist, named after a dance club in New York City called the Peppermint Lounge, which reopened in the 1980s as a rock club. Note the two-tone band! The steps of many more food-themed dances have been lost on the big dancefloor of Time, so that only the names remain: the Banana Split, the Big Egg, the Coffee Grind, the Dipsey Doodle, the Doublemint, the Fishin’ Pole, the Fridge, the Honey Dipper, the Snacky Poo, and the Turkey Trot.
And now Fork in the Road is wondering, Don’t food-related dances belong in the curriculum of chef academies like the CIA, Le Cordon Bleu, and the French Culinary Institute? Here’s hoping someone will endow a chair …
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2010