June 12, 2024

What Is Go-Go Dancing? A Journey Through Its History

Go-go dancing originated in the early 1960s at the French bar Whisky a Gogo in Juan-les-Pins. The name of the bar was inspired by the film "Whisky Galore!" This concept was then brought to the United States, where the Whisky a Go Go club in West Hollywood opened in 1964.

Origins and History

Early Beginnings

"Keyska Go-Go Dancing" by Alain-Christian is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/.


The inception of go-go dancing dates back to the early 1960s. The French bar Whisky a Gogo in Juan-les-Pins served as the birthplace of this dance style. The bar's name was inspired by the film "Whisky Galore!" and this novel concept was then transplanted to the U.S., most notably at the Whisky a Go Go club in West Hollywood which opened its doors in 1964.

Etymology

The term "go-go" is derived from the phrase "go-go-go" indicating high energy, and the French term "à gogo," meaning abundantly or galore. The etymology traces back to ancient French "la gogue," which means joy or happiness.

1960s Explosion

Rise of Go-Go Dancing

Go-go dancers started performing in 1964, with Carol Doda becoming famous for her topless go-go dancing. Whisky a Go Go club was innovative in introducing dancers suspended above audiences in glass cages. By the mid-1960s, go-go dancing had proliferated across the United States, commonly featuring dancers in booty shorts and knee-high vinyl boots.

Cultural Impact

"GO GO DANCING WAS FANTASTIC FEATURE OF KCMO ENTERTAINMENT SCENE IN 1970S" by roberthuffstutter is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.


Go-go dancers performed to recorded music, showcasing dance moves to entertain audiences. Many dancers viewed go-go dancing as a stepping stone into show business, earning approximately $125–$200 per week during the mid-1960s.

International Spread and Media Presence

Global Reach

Throughout the 1960s, go-go dancing extended its influence to various countries, including Germany and Canada.

Television and Media

American TV shows like "Hullabaloo," "Shindig!," and "Shivaree" featured go-go dancers, further cementing their place in popular culture. Go-go dancing also inspired pop songs and was featured in TV dramas like "Honey West."

Evolution and Modern Era

1970s to Early 1980s

The popularity of go-go dancing declined during the 1970s but persisted in a modified form within strip clubs. A resurgence occurred in the early 1980s, particularly in New York City clubs.

1990s Onwards

The resurgence continued with the rise of techno, house, and trance music. Go-go dancers began performing at music festivals and nightclubs. Modern go-go dancing has also been incorporated into performances by bands such as the Danish band Horrorpops.

Contemporary Scene

Gay Clubs and Go-Go Boys

Male go-go dancers, sometimes called go-go boys, emerged prominently in gay clubs during the 1980s, especially in venues like New York's Anvil. Today, go-go boys are a common feature in gay clubs, sometimes even more prevalent than female dancers.

Performance Art

Modern go-go dancers often sport flashy, colorful costumes and accessories such as glow sticks and light-up clothing, making performances visually captivating.

Special Celebrations and Modern Influence

Cultural Celebrations

West Hollywood hosts an annual "Go-Go Boy Appreciation Day" to celebrate the contributions of go-go dancers.

Political and Pop Culture Impact

Go-go dancing’s influence extends into various cultural and political realms. For instance, in 2013, Russia's Civilian Power party featured go-go dancers as deputy candidates, highlighting the unique and sometimes unexpected impact of this dance style.

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