Grizzly Bear (dance)

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The Grizzly Bear is an early 20th-century dance style. It started in San Francisco, along with the Bunny Hug and Texas Tommy and was also done on the Staten Island ferry boats in the 1900s. It has been said that dancers John Jarrott and Louise Gruenning introduced this dance as well as the Turkey Trot at Ray Jones Café in Chicago, Illinois around 1909. The Grizzly Bear was first introduced to Broadway audiences in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910 by Fanny Brice.[1]

The dance was rough and clumsy. During the dance, the dancers would yell out: "It's a Bear!" The genuine Grizzly Bear step was a correct imitation of the movements of a dancing bear, moving or dancing to the side. A very heavy step to the side with a decided bending of the upper part of the body from one side to the other, a decidedly ungraceful and undignified movement when performed as a dance.

It was reported that one of the reasons former President Woodrow Wilson's inaugural ball was cancelled was because of his "disapproval of such modern dances as the turkey trot, the grizzly bear and the bunny hug".[2] Not long before this, in 1912, New York placed the dance under a "social ban", along with other "huggly-wiggly dances", like the Turkey Trot and the Boston Dip.[3] It was also condemned in numerous cities across the US during the same time period, with many considering it to be a "degenerate dance".[4]

However, a large portion of society accepted the dance, along with other similar dances. The Grizzly Bear dance was featured "on Broadway, in vaudeville, and at cabaret performances". In fact, it is believed that the first introduction to the "general public" of the dance came about in the original "Broadway production of Over the River" in 1912.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Dance of the Grizzly Bear, published in 1910, was a song composed by George Botsford with lyrics by Irving Berlin which colloquially describes the origins of the dance along with its movements.[6]
  • In the 1912 song hit That Shakespearian Rag by Dave Stamper and Gene Buck, the dance is referenced in the refrain.
  • In episode 2, season 1, of the British television period drama Downton Abbey, the footman Thomas Barrow teaches the kitchen maid Daisy how to dance the grizzly bear.[7]
  • In episode 2, in miniseries Indian Summers on PBS, the Grizzle Bear Dance is performed by some of the British expatriate population during an evening soiree.
  • Folk-rock group The Youngbloods released their song "Grizzly Bear" in 1966, which mentions a woman dancing the Grizzly Bear, possibly in San Francisco.
  • Folk singer Bill Morrissey's song, "Grizzly Bear", employs the phrase "... to dance the Grizzly Bear."


  1. ^ Popular music, 1900-1919: an annotated guide to American popular songs
  2. ^ Special to The Free Press (January 21, 1913). "Wilson, Fearing Guests Would Dance Grizzly Bear and Bunny Hug, Calls Off Inaugural Ball". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  3. ^ "Grizzly-Bear Dance". Evening Post. March 30, 1912. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  4. ^ ""Grizzly Bear" And "Turkey Trot" Are Doomed As Degenerate Dances, But The "Boston" Will Live, Says Terpsichorean Expert". Pittsburgh Press. January 11, 1912. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  5. ^ Knowles, Mark (2009). The wicked waltz and other scandalous dances: outrage at couple dancing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. McFarland. p. 67. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  6. ^ Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Sheet Music
  7. ^ "Script Line: Transcribed Film and TV Scripts - Downton Abbey: Episode 1x02". Retrieved 5 February 2014.