Go-go dancers are dancers who are employed to entertain crowds at nightclubs or other clubs where music is played. Go-go dancing originated in the early 1960s, by some accounts when women at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City began to get up on tables and dance the twist. Some claim that go-go dancing originated at, and was named for, the very popular L.A. rock club Whiskey A Go Go which opened in January 1964, but the opposite may be true – the club chose the name to reflect the already popular craze of go-go dancing. Many 1960s-era clubgoers wore miniskirts and knee-high, high-heeled boots, which eventually came to be called go-go boots. Night club promoters in the mid‑1960s then conceived the idea of hiring women dressed in these outfits to entertain patrons.
The term go-go derives from the phrase "go-go-go" for a high-energy person, and was influenced by the French expression à gogo, meaning "in abundance, galore", which is in turn derived from the ancient French word la gogue for "joy, happiness".
In the 1960s
On Friday, 19 June 1964, Carol Doda began go-go dancing topless (after having had her breasts implanted with silicone to enlarge them) at the Condor Club on Broadway and Columbus in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. She became the world's most famous go-go dancer, dancing at the Condor for 22 years.
Go-go dancers began to be hired on a regular basis at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood in the Los Angeles area in July 1965. The Whisky a Go Go was also the first go-go club to have go-go cages suspended from the ceiling (they were there from the very beginning in 1965), and thus the profession of cage dancer was born.
The phrase go-go was adopted by bars in the 1960s in Tokyo, Japan. It was of lesser reputation until it was abandoned by a majority of clubs and appropriated by burlesque and striptease establishments, which in turn became known as go-go bars and the women working there known as go-go dancers. During the Vietnam War there were many go-go bars in Saigon, South Vietnam, to entertain U.S. troops. A synonym used in Vietnam for go-go dancers is "table dancer".
Hullabaloo was a musical variety series that ran on NBC from Tuesday, January 12, 1965, through Monday, August 29, 1966. The Hullabaloo Dancers—a team of four men and six women—appeared on a regular basis. Another female dancer, model/actress Lada Edmund, Jr. was best known as the caged "go-go girl" dancer in the Hullabaloo A-Go-Go segment near the closing sequence of the show. Other dance TV shows during this period such as ABC's Shindig! also featured go-go dancers in cages. Sometimes these cages were made of clear plastic with lights strung inside of them; sometimes the lights were synchronized to go on and off with the music. Shivaree!, another music show, usually put go-go dancers on scaffolding and on a platform behind the band which was performing. Each show of the period had a particular method of bringing the go-go dancers into camera view.
The tradition of go-go dancers on TV music shows continues around the world, such as the Viva Hotbabes and SexBomb Girls in the Philippines. However, while American shows of the 1960s featured dancers highly trained in the various choreography used in each show, many modern dancers are not so closely choreographed.
In gay clubs
Many gay clubs had male go-go dancers, often called go-go boys, from 1965 to 1968, after which few gay clubs had go-go dancers until 1988, when go-go dancing again became fashionable at gay clubs (and has remained so ever since).
In the 1970s and after
There were many go-go bars in Thailand during the Vietnam War and they continued (on a smaller scale) after the war ended. By the 1980s, Thailand was a leading center for the sex industry and this industry has become a Thailand tourist attraction for males. Many go-go bars are located in Patpong and Soi Cowboy streets of Bangkok.
Not very many nightclubs had go-go dancers in the 1970s. However, in the late 1970s, there was a nightclub at 128 West 45th Street (the same location where the Peppermint Lounge had been) in Manhattan, New York City, called G. G. Barnum's Room, patronized mostly by transsexuals, that had male go-go dancers who danced on trapezes above a net over the dance floor. In 1978, the Xenon night club in Manhattan became the first night club to provide go-go boxes for amateur go-go dancers to dance on. This got many people interested in go-go dancing.
In the early 1980s go-go dancing again became popular in New York City clubs inspired by the music of Madonna. Madonna included go-go dancers in her MTV music videos. By the late 1980s, go-go dancing had spread once more to nightclubs throughout the Western world and East Asia.
Today, go-go dancing has also found an outlet in mass media. Horrorpops, a Danish band, is known for featuring go-go dancers in their live performances and their music videos. The music video for "Horrorbeach" was dedicated entirely to the band's go-go dancers. Go-go dancers can be employed to enhance a band's performance, a DJ's music mix, or in some clubs they perform striptease as a main, solo act, in order for the go-go dancer to collect small tips per song from audience members; higher fees can be charged by go-go dancers who perform per song lap dances to individual customers.
Holidays and celebrations
Currently, the City of West Hollywood celebrates the history and culture of go-go dancing by hosting an annual "Go-Go Boy Appreciation Day" that includes a street festival and competition.
Performance art dancers
Go-go dancers that are hired to dance at night clubs, special parties, festivals, circuit parties or rave dances in bright, colorful costumes are called performance art dancers. Their costumes often include accessories such as glow sticks, light chasers, toy ray guns that light up, go-go shorts embedded with battery operated fiber optic tubes in various colors, strings of battery operated colored lights in plastic tubes, fire sticks, a musical instrument, or an animal (usually a snake). In the early to mid‑1980s, the performance art dancer John Sex, who performed with a python, played a role in making go-go dancing popular once again at gay and bisexual night clubs along with his life partner Sebastian Kwok.
- Fictional depictions
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