The Safety Dance

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"The Safety Dance"
The Safety Dance single.jpg
Single by Men Without Hats
from the album Rhythm of Youth
  • "Security" (UK)
  • "Living in China" (US)
Released 1983
  • 2:47 (single/original album version)
  • 4:36 ("Extended Dance Mix"/US album version)
Songwriter(s) Ivan Doroschuk
Producer(s) Marc Durand
Men Without Hats singles chronology
"I Like"
"The Safety Dance"
"I Got the Message"
"I Like"
"The Safety Dance"
"I Got the Message"

"The Safety Dance" is a song by Canadian new wave/synthpop band Men Without Hats, released in Canada in 1983 as the second single from Rhythm of Youth. The song was written by lead singer Ivan Doroschuk after he had been kicked out of a club for pogoing.[3]

The song entered the Canadian top 50 in February 1983, peaking at no. 11 on 14 May. In the meantime, "The Safety Dance" was released in the US on March 16, but did not enter the US charts for a few months. When it finally did, the record became a bigger hit than it had been in Canada, peaking at no. 3 in September 1983.[4] It also reached no. 1 on Cash Box, as well as no. 1 on the Billboard Dance Chart. "The Safety Dance" similarly found success in other parts of the world, entering the UK charts in August and peaking at no. 6 in early November, and entering the New Zealand charts in November, eventually peaking at no. 2 in early 1984.

Meaning of the song[edit]

The writer/lead singer, Ivan Doroschuk, has explained that "The Safety Dance" is a protest against bouncers stopping dancers pogoing to 1980s new wave music in clubs when disco was dying and new wave was up and coming. New wave dancing, especially pogoing, was different from disco dancing, because it was done individually instead of with partners and involved holding the torso rigid and thrashing about. To uninformed bystanders this could look dangerous, especially if pogoers accidentally bounced into one another (the more deliberately violent evolution of pogoing is slamdancing). The bouncers did not like pogoing so they would tell pogoers to stop or be kicked out of the club. Thus, the song is a protest and a call for freedom of expression.[5]

In 2003, on an episode of VH1's True Spin, Doroschuk responded to two common interpretations of the song. Firstly, he notes it is not a call for safe sex. Doroschuk says that is reading too much into the lyrics. Secondly, he explained that it is not an anti-nuclear protest song per se despite the nuclear imagery at the end of the video. Doroschuk stated that "it wasn't a question of just being anti-nuclear, it was a question of being anti-establishment."[6]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song (which uses the shorter single version), directed by Tim Pope,[7] is notable for its English folk revival imagery, featuring Morris dancers, Mummers, Punch and Judy and a Maypole. It was filmed in the village of West Kington, in Wiltshire, England.[8] Ivan Doroschuk is the only member of the band actually to perform in the video. Doroschuk, and others in the video, can be seen repeatedly forming an "S" sign by jerking both arms into a stiff pose, one arm in an upward curve and the other in a downward curve, apparently referring to the first letter in "safety". The Morris dancers seen in the video were the Chippenham Town Morris Men, performing a dance called Monkton Park. The dwarf actor is Mike Edmonds,[9] whose T-shirt in the video shows the Rhythm of Youth album cover. The identity of the young blonde woman dancing in the video remained unknown until 2013, when she was identified as Louise Court,[10] a journalist who served as editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan and became a director at Hearst Magazines UK in 2015.[11]

Chart performance[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

In 2010, a Lipton iced tea commercial featuring Hugh Jackman included The Feeling's version of the song playing in the background.[37]

The song is performed in "Dream On", season 1 episode 19 of the TV series Glee. In the episode, wheelchair user Artie (Kevin McHale) fantasizes about being able to dance and leading a flash mob performance of the song in a shopping mall.[38] Ivan Doroschuk credited this version with "reaching a whole other section of people" to appreciate the song.[39]

"The Safety Dance" was featured in Episode 2 of Season 19 of South Park, "Where My Country Gone?".[40]


  1. ^ Politis, John (1983). "Men Without Hats – Rhythm of Youth". Voice of Youth Advocates: VOYA. Scarecrow Press. 6: 356. The single by Men Without Hats, "The Safety Dance," may be the best new wave dance song since The B-52's "Rock Lobster." 
  2. ^ Platts, Robin. "Men Without Hats – Greatest Hats". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ Sperounes, Sandra (May 12, 2011). Good dance tunes don't die at the Wayback Machine (archived August 3, 2011). Edmonton Journal.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (8th ed.). Billboard Publications. 
  5. ^ "You Can Dance If You Want To: A Conversation with Ivan Doroschuk". Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict. November 3, 2012. Retrieved May 6, 2016. 
  6. ^ Karec. "True Meaning of the Safety Dance". Veoh. FC2. 
  7. ^ Hynes, Jim. "Past Interviews". Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Safety Dance was filmed in West Kington, Wiltshire, Near Bath, England.". Facebook. January 16, 2011. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Mini Jester in "The Safety Dance": 'Memba Him?". TMZ. August 11, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  10. ^ Wuench, Kevin (January 15, 2015). "Can you name the THIRD biggest hit for Men Without Hats? Here it is". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved November 26, 2015. 
  11. ^ Connelly, Tony (July 2, 2015). "Farrah Storr becomes new Cosmopolitan editor as Hearst Magazines UK makes changes to senior editorial team". The Drum. Retrieved March 24, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  13. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  14. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  15. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6269." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  16. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres par Artiste" (in French). InfoDisc. Select "Men Without Hats" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  17. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  18. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – The Safety Dance". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  19. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Men Without Hats - The Safety Dance search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  20. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  21. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  22. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance". VG-lista. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  23. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (M)". Retrieved July 22, 2013. 
  24. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance". Singles Top 100. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  25. ^ " – Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  26. ^ "Archive Chart: 1983-11-05" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  27. ^ a b c "Rhythm of Youth – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 2, 2013. 
  28. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending OCTOBER 1, 1983 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 13, 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  29. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 39, No. 17, December 24, 1983". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Top 20 Hit Singles of 1983". Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Top 100 Hits for 1983". The Longbored Surfer. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  33. ^ The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1983 at the Wayback Machine (archived September 11, 2012). Cash Box magazine.
  34. ^ "Canadian Content (Cancon) – Volume 63, No. 19, June 24, 1996". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  35. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Men Without Hats – Safety Dance". Music Canada. 
  36. ^ "British single certifications – Men Without Hats – Safety Dance". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Safety Dance in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  37. ^ Sweney, Mark (18 March 2010). "Hugh Jackman steps in for Lipton ads". The Guardian. Retrieved June 18, 2014. 
  38. ^ "'Glee': 25 Best Performances". Entertainment Weekly. March 18, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  39. ^ Doroschuk, Ivan (November 3, 2012). "You Can Dance If You Want To: A Conversation with Ivan Doroschuk" (Interview). Interview with Sam Tweedle. Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict. Retrieved October 17, 2016. 
  40. ^ Parker, Ryan (September 24, 2015). "South Park takes on Caitlyn Jenner's Car Crash and Donald Trump". Billboard. Retrieved October 1, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Puttin' On the Ritz" by Taco
US Cash Box number-one single
October 1, 1983 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
Preceded by
"Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
July 2, 1983 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by The Human League
Preceded by
"Candy Girl" by New Edition
South African number-one single
November 4, 1983 – January 6, 1984 (10 weeks)
Succeeded by
"All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie