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Ballroom dancing - British tradition

Sign board
Sign board 1950s, Maker unknown, New Zealand. Gift of Robert McLean, 2005. Te Papa

Boards like this showed the 'dance menu' at social events in 1950s New Zealand. The British tradition of ballroom dancing was still strong here. The 'graceful and charming' Queen Elizabeth waltz was composed for the 1953 coronation. Keen young people took classes to learn the steps.

Social dancing was a sanctioned form of courtship, with adults acting as chaperones. A highlight was the British tradition of the debutante ball, which announced the availability of young women for marriage.

Resisting American rock 'n' roll

Conservatives considered ballroom dancing far more respectable than the 'hypnotic abandon' of American rock 'n' roll. In some ballrooms, 'people danced the jitterbug, and that was frowned upon ... the band would stop'.

© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.