Madison (dance)

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Madison dancers before quarter of turn
The same, after the quarter of turn on the right

The Madison is a novelty dance that was popular in the late 1950s to mid-1960s.

Description and history[edit]

It was created and first danced in Columbus, Ohio, in 1957.[1] The local popularity of the dance and record in Baltimore, Maryland, came to the attention of the producers of The Buddy Deane Show in 1960. Picked up by dance shows across the country, it became widely popular.[2]

The Madison is a line dance that features a regular back-and-forth pattern interspersed with called steps. Its popularity inspired dance teams and competitions, as well as various recordings, and today it is still sometimes performed as a nostalgic dance. The Madison is featured in the John Waters movie Hairspray (1988), and it continues to be performed in the Broadway musical Hairspray. Both the film and the musical feature one of many songs released during the Madison "craze" in the US.

The jazz pianist Ray Bryant recorded "Madison Time" for Columbia Records in 1959.[3] Billboard stated that "The footwork for the Madison dance is carefully and clearly diagrammed for the terpers."[4] The Ray Bryant version was the version featured in the film Hairspray. The other popular version was by Al Brown & The Tunetoppers. Another version was recorded by radio presenter Alan Freeman for Decca Records in 1962.

An example of a 1960 song and album featuring music for the Madison is The Tunetoppers at The Madison Dance Party, with calls by Al Brown.[5]

The Madison took on international flavor when Count Basie visited Columbus in 1959 and adopted the dance as a feature of his entertainment when he played London and the Continent, creating press notices in London.[6]

The Madison basic, danced in the film Hairspray, is as follows:

  1. Step left forward
  2. Place right beside left (no weight) and clap
  3. Step back on right
  4. Move left foot back and across the right
  5. Move left foot to the left
  6. Move left foot back and across the right

Called steps included the Double Cross, the Cleveland Box, The Basketball (with Wilt Chamberlain), the Big "M", the "T" Time, the Jackie Gleason, the Birdland, and The Rifleman. "The Jackie Gleason" is based on a tap dance movement known as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo".[7] Additional called sequences are: Two Up and Two Back, Big Boss Cross in Front, Make a "T", the Box, Cuddle Me, and Flying High. "Away We Go" may be the same as "The Jackie Gleason".[8]

Time magazine noted the Madison in April 1960.[9]

The Madison dance has become very popular in the Kingdom of Cambodia and Kampuchea Krom (Mekong delta). It was introduced to Cambodia in the 1960s and remains a very popular dance at wedding banquets and other parties.[citation needed] The largest Madison dance in the world took place in Siem Reap, Cambodia on 15 April 2015 in celebration of the Cambodian New Year, involving 2,015 participants.[10]

Examples in motion pictures[edit]

A frame from the "Madison" scene of Bande à part. From left to right: Arthur (Claude Brasseur), Odile (Anna Karina), and Franz (Sami Frey).
  • In a famous sequence in Jean-Luc Godard's 1964 film Bande à part (Band of Outsiders, 1964), the main characters engage in a dance, which is not named in the film, but which the actors later referred to as the "Madison dance".[11] The music and choreography are, however, unrelated to the Madison.
  • The dance is performed by a large group in the original (non-musical) version of John Waters' Hairspray
  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Brad (played by Barry Bostwick) calls out, "Say, do any of you guys know how to Madison?" after the Time Warp dance.[12] However, the dance is not performed in the film.
  • In The Go-Getter (2007), Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel and Jena Malone all dance the "Madison" as an homage to Godard's Bande à part.
  • During the 3rd episode of the mini-series 11.22.63 (2016), during the school dance, the students and the main character's love interest are seen doing the Madison.
  • In the Netflix series Maniac (2018) episode 5, the characters played by Rome Kanda, Emma Stone, and Jonah Hill dance the Madison.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Malnig, Julie (2008), Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader, University of Illinois Press, p. 192, ISBN 978-0-252-07565-0
  3. ^ Ray Bryant Catalog at
  4. ^ Billboard, May 9, 1960, p. 44.
  5. ^ Edwards, David; Callahan, Mike (August 26, 2005), Amy Album Discography, retrieved 12 December 2009
  6. ^ "The Madison" at
  7. ^ Ames, Jerry; Siegelman, Jim (1977), The Book of Tap, David McKay Company, Inc., ISBN 0-679-50615-2
  8. ^ Bulter, Albert and Josephine (1975), Encyclopedia of Social Dance, New York, New York: Albert Bulter Ballroom Dance Service, pp. 242–244
  9. ^ "The Jukebox: The Newest Shuffle". Time, April 4, 1960. Accessed 12 December 2009.
  10. ^ "Largest Madison Dance". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  11. ^ Anna Karina, interview on the Criterion Collection edition of the film.
  12. ^ The Rocky Horror Picture Show at

External links[edit]