Big Band Magic!
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Rose Bowl Ali Baba
Downtown Dancing Sweets

The fox trot. The lindy hop. The rumba. As jazz music gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, cultural attitudes began to change, and a new form of the dance social -- less structured than debutante balls and society dances -- swept the nation. A formal invitation was no longer necessary. Neither were dance cards nor a set obligation with a partner. You could drop into a dance hall after dinner, stay as long as you liked and dance with whomever you fancied.

Radio gave jazz its big break, and the dance hall craze spread like wildfire. On Saturday nights, Big Band leader Benny Goodman hosted Let's Dance, an immensely popular NBC radio program on which many hits of the era were heard for the first time. The live program broadcast late at night in New York, which meant it played in California during peak listening hours. So before heading out to their favorite dance hall, many young Californians refined their dance steps in their living rooms, moving to the music of Goodman's show.

In the 1940s, almost everybody danced. It was the main way to make new friends and socialize with old ones. Dance halls sprang up everywhere. Admission ranged from 40 cents to 80 cents. When the war broke out, dancing was so popular that more than 2,000 factories nationwide set up facilities on the premises so workers could dance during their lunch hour. And on any given Saturday night in the Bay Area, the workweek far behind, you could choose from a multitude of venues -- hotel ballrooms, converted theaters, large gilded halls with sprung wooden floors covering thousands of square feet. You could even jump from one to another to take in more than one band if you really had hopping feet!

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