Remember Footloose? While getting recent news about high schools banning certain types of dancing at prom, I was reminded of Kevin Bacon’s struggle against the town’s ban on rock ‘n roll music and dancing. Banning dancing–or certain kinds of dancing–has long been a way to control “undesirable elements” within public space, long before Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips were censored for the good of teen girls all over America (not to discount teens of any other gender who might have found Elvis’s pelvis alluring).

Teens and dancing has been in the news recently for other reasons, from teens in Portland krumping to Malaysian teens shuffle dancing. For many of these teens, dancing bridges the gap between sound and life, allowing them to pour joys and frustrations into an elevated state of interpreting sound and rhythm.

At its root, dance is a very visceral form of music literacy, one that has been catching on with a lot of libraries lately. Last year, the St. Paul public library promoted hip hop dance workshops as part of its Teen Read Week festivities. It was only a few months ago that the Toronto Public Library offered a breakdancing demo & workshop for teens, while the Houston Public Library will be sponsoring a hip hop dance workshop as part of its summer programming schedule (as is the Cincinnati Public Library). The Queens Public Library is also getting into the swing of things with ballroom dancing lessons for teens, and the Orange County Library System just wrapped up a salsa dancing program that generated quite a bit of heat in the library.

So if you’re looking for a fun and exciting way for teens to flex their music literacy muscles, hold an after-hours dance at your library, host a workshop, or evaluate your policies to make sure that teens have room to maneuver.

Joseph Wilk
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen

About Joseph Wilk

I'm a teen library assistant with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Main location. Here, I'm the graphic novel and music librarian in addition to running anime, music, LGBTQ, incarcerated youth, and video programming. I'm happy to serve YALSA as a blogger, member of the Teen Tech Week committee, and as chair of the Music Interest Group. Otherwise, you can find me in da club.

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