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Let’s Dance!

As dancing celebrates a nationwide resurgence, AARP looks back at the art through the decades

  • Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

    Whether we are ballroom, hip-hop, salsa or swing dancing, we are a nation that loves to move. And, happily, dancing is as alive and well today as it was when we twisted, hustled and did the swim decades ago. Here’s a joyous look at America’s devotion to motion.

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  • Eric McCandless/ABC/Getty Images

    Now in Season 23, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars is a TV ratings juggernaut. The show’s celebrity mix has plugged into a cross-generational audience. Other dance shows come and go, but DWTS is as steady as a bossa nova.

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  • Courtesy Everett Collection

    A big, dancy holiday musical, La La Land stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. This modern movie couple makes fancy footwork look elegant and easy.

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  • WHITE HOUSE POOL/Getty Images

    Michelle Obama knows how to break it down. FLOTUS uses dance to motivate young people as part of her Let’s Move! initiative to fight childhood obesity. And she turned the 2015 White House Easter Egg Roll into a fun and funky dance party.

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  • Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

    Many of us share fond memories of racing to the television to catch our favorite dance programs, like Dick Clark’s American Bandstand or Don Cornelius’ Soul Train (pictured), then mimicking the latest moves.

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  • Getty Images

    Some musicians — think James Brown, Janet Jackson and Elvis Presley — fold so much kinetic energy into their work that dancing becomes intrinsic to their artistic oeuvre.

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  • Getty Images, AP, Getty Images

    Popular talents such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Neil Patrick Harris and Lin-Manuel Miranda marvelously extend the legacies of Fred Astaire and Sammy Davis Jr. as some of America’s most iconic movers and shakers.

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  • MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

    Remember the adrenaline rushes that electrified us as we watched Rita Moreno, John Travolta and Gene Anthony Ray (pictured) strut their stuff in films such as West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever and Fame?

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  • Paul Natkin/Getty Images

    Some moments are forever etched into our collective memories: Recall President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan fox-trotting at the White House in 1985, and Bruce Springsteen pulling fresh-faced ingenue and future Friends star Courteney Cox onto the stage to boogie in his hugely popular 1984 music video for “Dancing in the Dark.”

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  • PN2 WENN Photos/Newscom

    American music is filled with instructional dance hits — Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” Rufus Thomas’ “The Breakdown” and the Time’s “The Bird,” (pictured) to name a few — that literally taught us how to move. Each song had the requisite “Do the ___!” command repeated throughout.

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