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Close-up on Dancers Feet

by Matt Delmont

When the cameras were not holding tight close-ups of the regulars’ faces, they were often focused on dancers’ feet.  These close-ups on the dancers’ feet highlighted yet another product viewers could buy, “Dick Clark American Bandstand Shoes.”  Teenagers could purchase shoes in the style popularized by the show’s dancers.  In another sign of the Dick Clark’s quest to maximize profits, these shoes were advertised to black teenagers in the Philadelphia Tribune at the same time black teenagers were being turned away from the show’s studio audience. [figref 25]  These below the knee shots, ranging between fifteen seconds and a minute in duration, also captured the teenagers’ dance steps during fast songs such as, “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors and “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis, and group dance songs such as “The Stroll” by The Diamonds.  Along with dance instruction diagrams in the show’s yearbooks and in teen magazines, these close-ups provided viewers with tutorials on the show’s dance steps, and identified American Bandstand as the best source of information about “new” dances.  The 1958 American Bandstand yearbook emphasized this point on a page titled, “a new dance every day”: “‘The Chalypso,’ ‘The Walk,’ ‘The Stroll’—the list of new dances you’ve seen first on ‘American Bandstand’ just seems to grow each day.  How do they get started?  Well, if you ask some of the guests at the program, ‘They just happen.’”[i]   Despite the suggestion that “new dances have ‘just grown’ on the program,” most of these dances did not originate on American Bandstand.  Rather, many of the dances originated at local teen dances or were performed by the black teenagers on The Mitch Thomas Show.

American Bandstand Close-up on Dancers Feet

American Bandstand frequently used extended camera shots of dancers' feet so that viewers at home could learn the dances.

from American Bandstand (1957)
Creator: Dick Clark
Distributor: ABC/WFIL
Posted by Matt Delmont