Dance Fever

This is me tearing up the dance floor with my mother in April, 1972 at my sister’s wedding reception at the Legion. As you can tell by my joyful expression, ballroom dancing was a favorite activity of mine, and I credit that love of the Terpsichorean arts to this man:

Russell Curry ran a Junior High Dance class in Dedham from the early 1950s through the 70s. The classes were held in the Oakdale School gym. According to the Transcript, Curry offered “instruction in ballroom dancing, Virginia Reel and a ‘Rock’ step, social graces, including introductions, reception lines, and general party behavior.” The boys wore suitcoats and ties, the girls wore dresses and white gloves, and upon arrival would sit on opposite sides of the gym until the dance selection was announced. Then the boys would take that long stressful walk across the floor to choose a partner. The only part of the class more stressful than this was “ladies’ choice.” At some point in the evening, the boys would take the arm of their partner and join the long receiving line to greet the evening’s chaperones, who were seated at the stage end of the gym.

“Hello Mr. and Mrs. Chaperone, my name is James Parr and this is Abbie Normal.” Handshakes all around, and then back to the dance floor to tackle the Rock step to the strains of “A Horse With No Name.”

Surprisingly, the classes were more popular with girls than boys, as evidenced by this Transcript headline that ran just 2 days before classes were to start in October, 1971.

Several of my DHS ’77 classmates and I are described in the article as the “brave crew of boys” who had already signed up for seventh-grade beginner classes. I remained part of the brave crew for the rest of seventh grade, but did not continue my studies the following year.

Arlington born Russell Curry was a well-known figure in the Boston dance scene beginning in 1938 when he joined his mother’s Curry School of Dance, an enterprise she had started in 1920. During World War II, Curry worked with the USO traveling to local army camps teaching dance steps to servicemen. In the 1950s, he began instructing young people across New England in social etiquette and dance. During his heyday, Curry taught over 15,000 students a year in 50 communities across New England.

In this news photo from 1944, Russell Curry and his partner Virginia Touse demonstrate a new dance called “The Boston” at the Hotel Bradford.

Curry retired some time in the 1970s and moved to mid-coast Maine where he continued to teach and choreograph shows for the Boothbay Region Playhouse. He died in Damariscotta in 1997 at the age of 79.

Despite my somewhat unenthusiastic participation in dancing school, I actually learned a few things and could demonstrate a decent waltz step, fox trot or cha-cha if called upon. I bet there are many other members of that “brave crew” and their one-time dance partners out there who could make the same claim.

Explore posts in the same categories: JP's Dedham

15 Comments on “Dance Fever”

  1. Kathy Says:

    It was the only place for 7th and 8th graders to go on a Saturday evening. As I recall Mr. Curry had a very handsome assistant the years I attended. Put a little extra Fox in the girls Trot. Wish I could remember his name.


  2. Says:

    I also took those lessons, but I remember them being taught by Mr. Lamoreaux sp?

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS


  3. Heather Stratton Williams Says:

    Wow, very informative! I must have been in one of Mr. Curry’s last classes. I was in 7th grade in 80 or 81. I did that year at Ursuline, so it was quite something to go and dance with *boys* on Saturday nights. I didn’t know he had such a long and noted career in dance. He was a bit dishy in his younger days!


  4. Lee Ann Cronk Says:

    I love this. Your photo says it all! Absolutely the best.


  5. Paula Says:

    Love that picture of you and your Mom, Jim!
    This is a great article, brings back good memories. I loved those classes!


  6. Roxana Sahlean Says:

    Loved your last two posts! What wonderful stories, delivered with such great and understated sense of humor! Nothing like personal history to illuminate an era…I just purchased your book and looking forward to reading it. Thanks for keeping the past alive! While your blog and book are specifically about Dedham, I couldn’t help feeling your stories would have an universal appeal. I think you could easily cross into literature if you had the desire and inclination…



  7. Mary Finn Says:

    Oh my word Jim, that picture of you and your Mom is exactly how I remember you guys! 1972 was probably the last time I saw any of you. I spent most of my time on the Paul Park end of Tower.I am really enjoying your posts!Happy New Year!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


  8. Kathy Says:

    I was in Mr. Curry’s dance class for two years in the late 50’s when I was in Junior High at Oakdale School. I enjoyed it.


  9. Dave Williams Says:

    73 and 74 I went and you were right the ladies choice was tough for a boy ! Lol


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