The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 915: The Post-Punk Explosion part 4: Alt-Dance

Dancing is as old as the human race. As soon as we came down from the trees and started walking on two legs, we found a groove and have been moving to the music ever since.

Fast-forward several million years and we find that wherever there’s music, there’s dancing that goes along with it. (Okay, so many they didn’t exactly busy any movies to medieval hymns, but I’m sure there had to be some swaying going on.)

We can’t help but move to the music. Scientists have documented connections between the aural cortex and the movement centres of our brain. The millisecond we hear music, the motor cortex lights up, indicating a strong relationship between music, emotion, and the need to move in time with the music. In other words, we seem to be pre-wired to dance. Not dancing (or at least not moving to the music) is…unnatural.

This caused some problems with rock fans in the 1970s. Dancing was seen as uncool unless you were pogoing to slam-dancing to a punk band. And when disco came long–the most uncool music and scene of them all–dancing became almost a crime. What were you, some kind of disco weirdo?

Fortunately, that moratorium on dancing did not last long. The music and music fans evolved to another level. And when that happened, dancing became not just acceptable but cool once again.

This is a look at how it happened in the years immediately following the punk rock of the 1970s. Part four of the series on the post-punk explosion is all about what became known as “alt-dance.”

Songs from this program:

  • Kraftwerk, Radioactivity
  • Visage, Fade to Grey
  • David Bowie, Let’s Dance
  • Grace Jones, My Jamaican Guy
  • New Order, Blue Monday
  • Voodoo Ray, A Guy Called Gerald
  • Depeche Mode, Strange Love (Blind Mix)

Need a playlist? Eric Wilhite has supplied one.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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