New Zealand Retro: Dance Halls

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:28 pm on 13 April 2015

Square dancing at the Wellington Town Hall Photograph taken May by an Evening Post staff photographer
Dancing at the Wellington Town Hall. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 114/296/12-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Rock 'n roll hit our shores in the 1950s, and teenagers took to the exciting post-war American culture like ducks to water. Dances were organised and attended by thousands of people up and down the country - for teenagers and 20-somethings it was pretty much the only form of entertainment.

The dances of the 1950s and early '60s was an innocent and certainly pretty sober affair. The pubs closed at 6pm and the town halls and church halls where many of dances were held weren't licensed.

In Christchurch, the most popular was the Spencer Street dance in Addington. It attracted more than a thousand people on any one night. Entry was two shillings and sixpence, and as well as the music, there were three sittings of supper – sausage rolls, sandwiches, cake and a hot drink.

We've delved into the archives to unearth some gems from the dance halls past, and find out about the people keeping the jive alive today.

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Archival audio supplied by Nga Taonga Sound and Vision.

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