Hear the shocking confessions of those âdime-a-danceâ girls. From the frisky patrons to the expense of keeping up-to-date with your coiffure and gown. A glimpse of a past-time long past. The âtaxi dancerâ was a term that came about in the late 20âs. Taxis were the closest you got to legal sex-work, and quite a few of the girls performed the illicit pay-for-play services as well. They were professional dance partners, and like a taxi cab, you paid for time spent. In many ways, these girls had it better than strippers do today, they made two to three times what a factory or retail girl would, but never had to take their clothes off.
In many ways they were replacement prostitutes.
Dance halls were BIG in the 20âs and 30âs. In 1931 there were over 100 taxi-dance halls in New York City alone. âTen Cents a Danceâ was a hit song and 1927 saw the Joan Crawford film The Taxi Dancer. 1935 saw the release of a great marathon dance themes crime novel They Shoot Horses, Donât They, by Horace McCoy.
Unique to American culture, the taxi dancer served as a sort of legitimate prostitute. Sociologist Paul G. Cressy studied them starting in 1925 and released his findings in a 300 page paper entitled The Taxi-Dance Hall : A Sociological Study in Commercialized Recreation and City Life. He classified nine basic catagories of male patrons in the following manner:
Racial or ethnic groups who are denied acceptance elsewhere. Caucasian immigrants, frequently from a European country. Italians, Poles, Greeks, and Jews predominated. Older men, approaching fifty, who want to rival younger men in courting young women. They were sometimes divorced, widowers, or deserters. Married men whose marriages are suffering, and might enjoy the clandestine adventures of the taxi-dance hall. Lonely, isolated strangers who might be from a rural area or smaller city, and are still new to the ways of the city. The footloose globe trotter who has a very mobile lifestyle. The slummer, men of higher incomes who wish to see how the other lives. Men who suffer from physical abnormalities or disabilities. The fugitive, someone who might have a criminal background, or suffers from local condemnation. These catagories seem remarkably similar to those you find frequenting whore houses. Because there was no legal barrier to the taxi-dance, it became an enormously popular and profitable venture.