The Return of Punch Dancing?

Apparently, Hollywood doesn’t have any original ideas anymore. You just can’t get away from the remakes, which are all the rage these days. I just saw a trailer for the new version of Footloose. It started out in the same vein- a small town with a bunch of grumpy adults who won’t let the kids have any fun. Some guy tells the new kid in school, Dancey McGoodhair, “Public dancing is against the law if you’re under 18 in Beaumont.” Uh oh. But then I noticed something. It looks like they might have recreated the famous punch dancing scene from the original film. Aside from the obvious questions of: (a) why did they do a remake of Footloose, and more importantly (b) why did I watch the trailer, is this- (c) if this scene is really in the movie, will this herald the return of punch dancing?

The Urban Dictionary defines punch dancing as:

A way to release anger through dancing, punching, and kicking, at the same time in a deserted area.

Guy# 1: Your late! What have you been doing?
Guy# 2: You know how Kelly broke up with me?
Guy# 1: Yeah.
Guy# 2: Well, as I was walking through the woods to get home, I sorta thought about it, and began punch dancing.
Guy #1: Oh, ok.

The first known evidence of punch dancing was in the original Footloose, released in 1984. Kevin Bacon had a scene where he went off…smoking, dancing, and punching away. Audiences didn’t know how to handle this display of raw energy at the time, but they came around. Billy Idol kept this anger management technique alive through the 80s by including it some of his music videos. Forgotten for some time, punch dancing was later revived in the 2007 film Hot Rod, in which Adam Samberg recreated that famous scene from Footloose. As before, audiences were both amazed and a little frightened by what they saw.

Since then, the world has had a mostly back and forth relationship with punch dancing. It took a hit when Journey songs were featured prominently on the TV show Glee. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Glee going to the classics. However, the musical theater aspect of it all really takes away from the subversive roots of some of the songs. And thus, we’re left with no allowance for punch dancing. But have no fear, there are those that won’t let it die, like Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island. There is a series of YouTube videos out there, where he punch dances away to the sound checks of various bands as they get ready to appear on Saturday Night Live. And Bill Hader is always there, watching, just shaking his head.

Personally, I never really learned to punch dance. But I did do some mean “rock arm” back in my day. Before the house, before the kid, everything was all so simple then. All you really needed was too much hairspray, maybe an armband, and a good mix tape. Then all you had to do was press play, and everything was right with the world. Journey, Night Ranger, and Sammy Hagar are all excellent choices for some good “rock arm” time. Still, rock arm can only blow off so much steam. Sometimes I think maybe it would have helped to alleviate more depression if I had acquired some appropriate punch dancing skills. However, the advanced techniques are difficult to learn, and can be dangerous for those overly ambitious enough to take on. And so, I was stuck with rock arm. As an example of what too much rock arm can lead to, I give you this song below. Just a simple 4-track demo, let it serve as a cautionary tale.

Sad Songs (Joe Saturday’s Theme)    [WARNING: NSFW- some foul language]

In the teaser trailer for the new Footloose, Dancey McGoodhair stood up in the town hall meeting and said in his heavy Boston accent, “This is our time.” All I can say is, “Yes it is, Dancey. Yes it is.”

Source: Urban Dictionary, YouTube (Jorma Punch Dancing to Vampire Weekend)


11 thoughts on “The Return of Punch Dancing?

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  1. I’m convinced that it was the Village People who first introduced punch dancing but I really don’t feel up to surfing Youtube at the moment for video evidence to support my claim. Billy Idol also incorporated punch dancing into his schtick along with a good deal of rock arm as well. I wouldn’t dispute, however, the notion that the phenomenon experienced an apotheosis as demonstrated by Kevin Bacon in the legendary scene from Footloose. The young Mr. Bacon truly showed us what punch dancing could be.


    1. I’m sure there was punch dancing before Mr. Bacon, but he popularized it. He, in an instant, brought us the imagery and full vision that others in the clubworld and such only gave us glimpses of. (That’s a collective “us”, by the way.)


  2. Hi, Jeff. I was surprised this morning to be notified that my blog had been nominated by Juliet Greenwood for a Lieber Award.

    I had never heard of this, but it seems that if you’re nominated, you’ve already won! As long as you go on to nominate 5 of your favorite blogs—it’s about spreading the love and bring attention to blogs with less than 200 followers.

    So, your blog is one of my nominations, if you choose to accept it. Thanks!
    Check it out:


  3. We have a life-sized kickboxing dummy in our backyard named “Bob,” and my 15-year old takes all her teen angst out on him. Your story gave me a great idea for a high school fundraiser to loan out Bob to the next dance. Anyone who doesn’t have a date can rent Bob for a punch dance.

    By the way, I totally agree with the remakes. Do you think the young viewers of the new “Charlie’s Angels” realize that it isn’t just a remake of a 2000 Drew Barrymore/Cameron Diaz/Lucy Liu movie? Doesn’t anyone have a new idea?


    1. Entertainment has become a TV show of a movie that was of a TV show that was made from an old movie that was made from a book. Nice. And all the same people make the movies that employ the same small group of stars.


  4. the remakes make me crazy, how could they mess with a classic like Footloose 🙂 I hear they want to remake dirty dancing, oh boy I might have to do some punch dancing of my own and knock some sense into those people 😀


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