Dancing the Body Electric

A look back at New York’s 1970s dance boom.
  1. New York City in the seventies was its own circle of hell. A deep recession came in like a night tide. Welfare cases in the city tripled during the early years of the decade. By 1973, as Andreas Killen writes in his book 1973 Nervous Breakdown, social engineering had miserably failed to improve inner cities, and New York’s South Bronx was held up as emblematic of a national crisis. It wasn’t just the Bronx. In Manhattan, the theater district was “the den of pornography, prostitution, felony crimes, drug dealing, you name it,” says Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, in the documentary Broadway: The American Musical. Times Square was “dangerous, filthy,” recalls my husband, the writer James Wolcott. “The Port Authority Bus Terminal was like Dante’s Inferno—beggars and junkies and pimps and runaways, and nearly everyone hustling. It was a city of hustlers.”

    But there was another species of hustler in 1970s New York City, and this one was fit and disciplined. Its b...

The complete text of “Dancing the Body Electric” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.city-journal.org.

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