( Originally Published 1916 )
DANCING is the oldest art in the world.
It is the primeval form of self-expression.
It is peculiarly the form in which youth shows forth its joy. When grandfather is pleased he smiles. When the boy of six is pleased he jumps up and down, spins about and capers; i. e., dances.
The little lambs leap up, the calves caper, the colts kick and race, the kitten chases its tail, and the puppies indulge in the most twisted antics, all to express their joy in life.
Of human creatures the same is true. Dancing is as natural as singing. It is the first and most satisfactory outlet for the spirit of play.
Is dancing immoral?
Morality consists not in the doing or not doing of this or that. It consists in such a moderate, decent, and intelligent indulgence in any form of pleasure as shall indicate that one is "above his pleasures," always has due regard for the es-teem of his world, and never makes his amusement the vehicle for his vices.
One can dance, therefore, quite as morally, as temperately, and self-respectingly as he can dine or sleigh ride.
Dancing is no more moral or immoral than pussy-wants-a-corner or drop-the-handkerchief.
It is not the thunders of the Puritanic moralist that dancing needs; it is the spirit of the gentleman and gentlewoman.
Within the last few years dancing has advanced into an amazing vogue. The so-called "new dances" are such that elderly people can participate in them, as they are simpler and more readily learned than the waltzes, schottisches, and polkas of a former day.
The result has been that instead of sitting about all evening after dinner, smoking, drinking, and playing cards, the older persons arise and shake their legs even as the youth.
Of course there is danger in dancing. There is danger in every kind of self-expression in joy. But the morals of the American people are not going to be corrupted.
The intelligence, good sense, and self-restraint of decent people can be trusted. And if not, then no amount of police control and moral admonition will do them any good.
Whatever induces the people to play more and drink and lounge less is helpful. And dancing is the original play. It is the first impulse of a happy heart in a sound body.
Instead of abolishing dancing in restaurants, we ought to teach it in the public schools.