1920s to Today: Dance Clubs

By: Natalie Lisenko

The 1920’s were full of poverty, increase in tensions, and racism throughout America. Along with that came a little bit of a distraction that still exists today, called dance clubs or just “the club” as people would reference it today. Today, we are blessed with many things such as a job to work at, no prohibition, hanging out with friends of all colors, and a somewhat stable economic system. Aside from all of that, there was a nightly getaway that many take part in. Nightclubs are an exciting and fun place to go hangout with your friends, have a drink, and dance all night.  

Today, there are many nightclubs that you are allowed to go to if you are over 18. Some of my friends that are in college tend to go there a lot to take a break and have some fun. There are also clubs that people are only allowed in if they are 21 and over. Many young adults these days will actually get fake IDs to get into these clubs, and to be able to drink the alcohol like anyone else.

In the 1920s, there was Prohibition. During my research on this topic I figured that if selling alcohol was against the law, then why would they be able to sell and drink it? Then I realized that even today, people are underage drinking, and they sometimes don’t even have to show ID to do it. When Prohibition began there was an outbreak of clubs called speakeasies. Speakeasies were clubs you could go to and purchase alcohol. These clubs formed gangs and small corporations that would run the business of selling alcohol illegally, which led them to run the parties/nightclubs that actually included alcohol. Women that attended these clubs were called flappers, they wore shorts dresses/skirts, had bobbed hair, listened to lots of jazz (as did everyone else), and “flaunted their disdain”. Flappers weren’t exactly women who desired respect, they did what they wanted at the expense of their dignity. Back in the 1920s, this was considered acceptable behavior. The clubs in the 1920’s brought many social changes and exciting times to nightlife.

Fast forward to now, in the “2010’s” (aka 2019) where rap is praised, alcohol is allowed to be sold legally, and people put their problems aside for a night of fun with their friends. In SF there is this place called City Nights. It is almost a common thing to go to on your 18th birthday around the Bay Area. I know many people who have been there or want to go in the future. In the club you get to listen to music, order whatever non-alcoholic drinks you want, and dance all night.  People nowadays don’t usually dance so much, and if they do dance, it’s usually just them jumping up and down. The music most people would listen to at nightclubs are either techno, rap, R&B, or hip hop.

The 1920s and 2000s are very different times. Music is different, the dancing is completely different, and the way people dress and act is different. One of the only similarities in the clubs from the 1920s to today is what you usually do there; dance, drink, and listen to music.

Cotton Club

this photo includes an example of a club from the 1920s. The cotton club was a famous speakeasy from the 1920s

this photo is an example of what clubs look like today. Theres lights, a large group of people and a dj that plays all the music.


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