‘The dancing front’: dance music, dancing, and the BBC in World War II Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This paper offers a case history of the BBC's ambivalent engagement with dance music during the Second World War. It examines what ‘dance music’ meant to the BBC, musicians, and the public, and how they contested and performed those meanings in the context of new social dance practices and the growing popularity of what became known as ‘swing’ in Britain. Although broadcasting in effect disembodied music closely associated with the physical, the BBC was a primary way for people to access dance music which supported their bodily acts of leisure and regimentation. The BBC's study and regulation of dance music centred around two goals: pleasing important groups in national service and broadcasting morale-boosting music. The problem of whether these goals were congruent lay at the heart of the issue, for the youth active in national service emerged as the primary audience for the two genres – ‘swing’ and ‘sentimentality’ – about which the BBC felt most dubious.

publication date

  • October 2006