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The pogo is a dance in which the dancers jump up and down, while remaining in the same location; the dance takes its name from its resemblance to the use of a pogo stick, especially in a common version of the dance, where an individual keeps their torso stiff, their arms rigid, and their legs close together. Pogo dancing is most associated with punk rock, and is a precursor to moshing.
The basic steps allow for a variety of interpretations, some of which might appear quite violent. Pogo dancers have their choice of:
- keeping their torsos rigid or thrashing them about;
- holding their arms stiffly at their sides or flailing them;
- keeping their legs together or kicking about;
- jumping straight up and down, jumping in any direction, or spinning in the air.
Occasionally, dancers collide, but this is not necessarily part of pogo dancing. An uninformed bystander might get the impression that the dancers are attacking one another. People sometimes get injured when pogoing, but, more often than not, pogoers who fall to the ground are helped up instead of getting trampled. There is a general understanding that the pogoing is fun, not a fight. As the more aggressive hardcore punk emerged in the early 1980s, dancing became more violent and evolved into both moshing and slam dancing, in which dancers run and jump around, deliberately shove and slam into each other. The risk of injury in moshing is significantly higher, although it is generally agreed that moshers are not attempting to cause each other serious injury.
In The Filth and the Fury, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious claimed that he invented the pogo sometime around 1976 at punk shows in the early days of London's punk scene. Vicious supposedly invented the dance as a way of mocking people who came to see Sex Pistols' performances, but who were not part of the punk movement. Whether Vicious actually invented the dance or not, the pogo quickly became closely associated with punk rock. Shane MacGowan, himself an early follower of the punk scene, also attributes pogo dancing to Vicious, claiming that a leather poncho he wore to gigs prevented him from any other form of dancing except jumping up and down. Another person also attributes the invention to Vicious, but claims the reason was that he wanted to see a band onstage so he started jumping up and down. Jon King of Gang of Four helped popularize the pogo as a stage move for performers.