Just like anywhere else in the world, the Soviet youngsters wanted to socialize, to listen to the music and to dance. The nightclubs were unheard of – anything of that kind would have been announced as promoting debauchery or morally wrong lifestyle habits. So the best one would hope for were the discotheques – the special dance occasions, organized by the officials on a weekly basis. They always had a designated supervisor – a school principal or a city council representative in charge.
Often enough, especially in the small cities, these dance events were the only source of entertainment. Movies were scarce and arrived in towns infrequently; the circus would visit once a year; and libraries just didn’t do it.
Knowing the popularity of discotheques, the authorities also liked using it as the sweet part of the “carrot and stick” tandem: for instance, dancing would follow some boring meeting, or a motivational lecture, or some propaganda pep talk. Linking the attendance of the lecture to the permission to come out and dance was an easy way to twist arms of the rebellious youth.
A set of rules – how to behave on a discotheque – was usually displayed and enforced by the person in charge. For instance, it was suggested that work clothes were not welcome, and the outfit should be light and comfortable. The dance moves were suggested to be well-rehearsed as dancing “freestyle” was not considered appropriate. Women were allowed to express discontent towards males who would make inappropriate advances or dance in a wicked manner. Smoking was prohibited, but at least there was never a cover charge.
As for the dancing “appropriately”, it was generally accepted that classic dances (waltz and other slower modest moves) were better than tango, foxtrot or swing – these were more of a “dirty Western dancing”. That was what the crowd would long for, though – so the dj was allowed to play such a tune once a night, perhaps. And, just like anything forbidden, it really drove the crowd wild.
The propaganda, which was everywhere, stated that in the West people are so overworked, they need their weekly portion of dances to rewind (this was a subtle reference to “Saturday Night Fever”, also banned in the country). The logic was that in the USSR things were different: people went out to dance in order to socialize, not because their capitalist bosses tired them out.
Quite the contrary, in the USSR dancing was also a part of a harmonious development of a person. This notion was very popular with the movie directors: the working class – electricians, nurses, teachers etc – go dancing because they have too much energy, not to lose themselves in music. The latter one was considered to be wrong and asocial. It is a nice finish for the week, but it is not a desperate, Travolta-like TGIF, it is an active type of rest and a great deal of cultural activity.