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Dancing in the English StyleConsumption, Americanisation and National Identity in Britain, 1918-50$
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Allison Abra

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994334

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994334.001.0001

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At the palais: the dance hall industry and the standardisation of experience

At the palais: the dance hall industry and the standardisation of experience

(p.77) 3 At the palais: the dance hall industry and the standardisation of experience
Dancing in the English Style

Allison Abra

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines the evolution of the dance hall industry – one of the major cultural producers that shaped the commercialisation and experience of popular dance in Britain during the interwar and wartime periods. The new purpose-built dancing spaces that began to emerge after the war were affordable to Britons of almost every class, and many adopted a standard layout and format, providing an increasing uniformity of experience throughout the nation. A standard dancing experience was in fact a major objective of figures like Carl L. Heimann, managing director of Mecca, Britain’s largest chain of dance halls. However, despite this commercial might and cultural authority, the chapter shows that patrons entered into ongoing negotiations with the dance hall industry. A great disparity remained in terms of the access to and quality of public dancing spaces for Britons of different regions and classes, but most significantly, the dancing public made important choices as to where, how, and why they consumed dancing. This served to individualise their experience and kept going to the palais from becoming a wholly homogenised experience.

Keywords:   Dance hall, Mecca, Heimann, Standardisation, Commercialisation, Consumption, Mass Observation

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