Watusi, Bachata, Twist, Mosh, Conga, Zumba, Hustle, Cumbia, Shag, Pajaritos, Charleston, Locomotion, Zumba, Trouser Press, Macarena, Mashed Potato, Mambo, Foxtrot: I have a perverse fascination with dance fads that crop up out of nowhere, are insanely popular for a brief period, and then disappear almost completely to occasionally resurface at wedding discos.
So you can imagine my excitement this week when the dynamic duo of Locust and Concheroo unearthed a 1960s Finnish dance craze called the Letkis or Jenka that I’d never heard of. When I posted a clip of it on my FB I was deluged with comments by nostalgic Finns and Swedes. For two or three years it was as hot as IKEA meatballs. Joe Loss and France Gall jumped on the bandwagon and recorded jenka tracks. Stikkan Andersson, later to become highly successful as ABBA’s mentor, even tried to launch it as a new international dance craze.
Billboard Magazine on February 23 1965 reported the fears of the West German government:“German medical authorities have warned that kissing fad started by the let−kiss dance threatens to spread colds and other disease. They call the let−kiss fever a “medical nuisance could lead to a catastrophe”. Let−kiss discs have rocketing sales in Germany. Meanwhile, Bonn government authorities are considering steps to ban the dance.”
There’s a theory that Bunny Hop was brought back to Finland by exchange students who’d been in the US. The Finns then started to play traditional jenka dance songs (it’s a dance rather like the schottis) on modern electric instruments combined with the conga like dance movements. And it spread like wildfire.
One side effect of my jenking research is that I also learnt about the Slosh: dance of choice of inebriated women at (Scottish) weddings and parties.
I suspect that AW is more full of wallflowers than a well-stocked garden centre. But does anyone have memories, either good of bad of these various dance sensations that swept the nations?
Back in Jane Austen’s day, no gentleman would stand a chance with the ladies if he could not cut a rug and perform a stylish gavotte. I suspect that few courting couples meet on the dancefloor in 2016.
The most remarkable jenka memory on FB came from a Swedish pal:
“I was raised with that dance.. the jenka. I especially recall the compulsory collective jenka at the pig party with drunk (free red wine) and enthusiastic Swedes on a charter trip with my mom to the Canary Islands in the early 70’s… I was so young I was on my watch, slightly worried of being raped by the large number of drunk housewifes on the loose… Observed by a big taxi driver, he took me aside and said it wasn’t a place for me to be, took me down to the harbour red light district, where my true education begun… all due to the completely derailed morality of the jenka…”