POSTED April 6 2012

Damsels in Distress: Your Favorite Dance Craze?

Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody dance the "Sambola"

It’s like a fever, it’s like a plague…it’s swept all Europe, from Moscow to the Hague. Them’s the lyrics to “The Continental,” from the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical The Gay Divorcee. Rogers explains the secret of the song about the dance:  “you kiss while you’re dancing.” I’m not sure that it inspired a dance craze akin to the minuet or the waltz or the foxtrot, but it did win the first Oscar for best song.

Whit Stillman’s whimsical collegiate comedy Damsels in Distress pays homage in title and one dance number to a Fred Astaire/Joan Fontaine film. Its heroine, Violet (cockeyed Greta Gerwig, channeling the spirit of Carole Lombard), dreams of starting a dance craze, the “Sambola.” Her attempts to interest the “Animal House” fratboys on her campus occasions considerable humor.

The movie brought to mind other like-footed dance novelties in movies, like “The Yam” in Carefree, the “Varsity Drag” in Good News and “The Roach” in John Waters’ 1987 Hairspray, all ridiculous, and ridiculously infectious. Your favorite movie-manufactured dance craze?




  1. Joe says:

    It’s an awful film, Carrie, but didn’t George Roy Hill’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie” depict a new dance craze called The Tapioca? I believe James Fox was the culprit trying to introduce Julie Andrews to it.

  2. Carrie Rickey says:

    This was the response to the question on my FB wall. Worth repeating:
    Bobby Rivers The Carioca
    Friday at 4:27pm · Like

    Pete Croatto The Bug (Hairspray, original)
    Friday at 4:28pm · Like

    Anne Hurley The Time Warp!
    Friday at 4:33pm · Like
    Carrie Rickey ?@Pete: Wasn’t it called The Roach? It’s great.
    Friday at 4:33pm · Like

    Pete Croatto Ah, yes, it was the Roach. I’m getting it confused with Jerry Stiller’s line: “There are no bugs on my baby!”
    Friday at 4:54pm · Like

    Larry Frascella The Yam.
    Friday at 5:07pm · Like
    Carrie Rickey Joe Baltake mentioned that in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” James Fox teaches Julie Andrews “The Tapioca.” I also like the “Varsity Drag” in Good News.” And isn’t there a Polka Dot Polka in “The Gang’s All Here”?
    Friday at 5:24pm · Like

    Larry Frascella What about the Madison from Hairspray–or was that already a dance?
    Friday at 5:29pm · Like

    Pete Croatto The Tapioca is excellent. “Tapioca…Everybody freeze!”
    Friday at 5:31pm · Like
    Carrie Rickey The Madison already existed.
    Friday at 6:11pm · Like
    Carrie Rickey ?@Bobby: I love the Carioca, too. That was my father’s nickname for me.

  3. wwolfe says:

    My friends and I, when very drunk in college, would dance our own invented dance, the Ronny Cox, named after the actor whose character met an unfortunate end on the river in “Deliverance.” The dance consisted of crooking one arm back up behind one’s neck, a la the position of the late character when found submerged in the water. Then we’d hop around in a vageuly pogo-style movement. Somehow, this creation never swept the nation.

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