Backtracking:

FileWendy Wade and Doug Jenkins are seen on March 30, 1990 leading a dance class in the lambada. Country line dancing, the Macarena, and the ever-reliable ballroom dances brought out many for lessons and to local dance floors during the 1990s. 

Gone were the days of break dancing, the “Safety Dance,” and all the routines from the movies “Footloose” and “Flashdance.” The 1980s had become “old school” on the local dance floors — as the 1990s arrived with all the latest steps and moves.

“How well do you know your partner?” was the question asked by The Daily Star on March 31, 1990. “You may want to be at least friends when trying the latest dance craze — the lambada.

“It’s called Latin America’s forbidden dance and has made its way from Brazil through Paris and New York City to Oneonta. Playful, sensual, seductive; it’s captivating at least six couples taking lessons weekly at an Oneonta dance studio.”

Wendy Wade, an instructor at Oneonta Karate and Dance on Main Street, called the lambada “a real lovers’ dance,” something that can add spice into a relationship, because of the closeness between the partners.

“You can’t be shy,” said Tim Johnson, who was taking lessons with his wife, Nancy.

By 1994, another new dance craze had caught on around Oneonta: country line dancing. Glenn Sullivan, also under the instruction of Wendy Wade, was amongst others learning the two-step dance, seen in the Star of Sept. 24 at Wilsbach Dining Hall at the State University College at Oneonta.

“It wasn’t easy for me, but the longer you stick with it, the better you get and the more fun you have,” Sullivan said, calling himself not much of a dancer prior to that time.

Dancing in Oneonta had reached a high point during the 1990s. Wade was teaching more than 100 different kinds of dances at the beginning and intermediate levels, and adding new ones regularly. Other dance schools had opened in the region, including the Decker School of Ballet and Oneonta Tapworks.

Yet another dance craze overcame Oneonta in the summer of 1996. This, too, was a line dance to a song by Los Del Rio, called the “Macarena.”

Doug Decker, no relation to the ballet school and then an on-air personality for WSRK, did a live regular Wednesday night broadcast from Boomers Lounge and said people couldn’t get enough of the Macarena.

“It’s gotten to the point where if I play it three times a night it’s not enough,” Decker told The Star on Wednesday, Aug. 7. “If I leave here without playing the Macarena, they’ll be waiting for me by my car.”

It wasn’t just for nightclubs.

“What’s good about it is that everybody can do it,” said Hartwick College men’s basketball coach Nick Lambros. “It’s a catchy tune and it breaks the ice.”

Lambros stood up and led close to 400 fans — kids, teens and adults alike — in the Macarena prior to the fifth inning at the Tuesday, Aug. 6, Oneonta Yankees game.

While so many were attracted by these new dances, the “old school” styles had never been abandoned.

Ballroom dancing had been making a comeback locally since the late 1980s and the momentum hadn’t slowed much.

Carol Blazina, the recent recipient of the Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Distinguished Citizen Award by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, was busy during 1990 writing a book for her students at SUNY Oneonta about how to ballroom dance. As an associate professor, Blazina had been teaching dance for 22 years.

“There has really been a resurgence in interest in ballroom dancing,” she told The Star in January 1988. “Even the videos are showing couples dancing together. How well you can dance is important to young people.”

Blazina’s book, “Ballroom Dance — A Step in the Right Direction” came out in December 1990, a paperback to instruct students and others on the Foxtrot, tango, rhumba and Lindy, among others.

Blazina said since the “me generation” of the 1970s, when popular dancing was more independent, ballroom dancing had come full circle and become a form of “touch dancing” that had come back into style. She had a waiting list for her ballroom dancing class when the book was published.

This weekend: Arrivals and departures were making news in our area in the spring of 1920.

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.

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