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“Splendid Dancing”: Filipino “Exceptionalism” in Taxi Dancehalls

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2012

Extract

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Filipino men patronized the popular American social institution of the taxi dancehalls, comprising nearly one quarter of the taxi dancehall patrons in major cities such as Detroit and Los Angeles (see Cressey 1932). Taxi dancehalls were at the height of their popularity during this period, often serving as a key site of sociality amongst and between immigrants. Women were employed as dancers for hire, and men, predominantly immigrants, were their principal patrons. Filipinos, workers and students alike, came dressed in McIntosh suits, eager to spend their hard-earned wages on taxi dancers. Here, Filipino men made rare social contact with women—taxi dancers who were largely white, occasionally Mexican, and very rarely Filipina (see Meckel 1995 for a detailed study of taxi dancers). Filipinos would purchase their dance tickets, choose their favorite girl within a group of taxi dancers, and move to the music of a live band. For ten cents per dance number, slow or fast, Filipino men could choose to dance with the same dancer until their tickets ran out or opt for the pleasures of another. Like a taxi ride, each dance came with a ticketed price and the expectation of a tip, either in the form of a drink, a sandwich, or perhaps even a marriage proposal.

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Copyright
Copyright © Congress on Research in Dance 2008

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