The community hall or gymnasium would be dimly lighted by a few flood lights. Whether the music was delivered by a jukebox, a DJ or live band, the use of a color organ and strobe light was prevalent. Waiting in anticipation of being asked to dance, the teenage ladies were seated along the walls of the dance floor while some of the young girls started things off by dancing with each other.
In Cape Breton this familiar 1960s dance scene now took a radical depart from the norm. The young gents, dressed in typical macho denim jeans ‘n jacket, entered the dance hall ‘struttin’ their stuff’. Then, like “the March of the Penguins”, these young males, 2 or 3 abreast, began a deliberate saunter (always in counter clockwise direction) around the dance floor.
This procession of “eligible male dance partners” (hence the name ”stag line”) expanded with more guys joining their buddies in the “dance floor walk about”. In short order, this all-male line grew to a solid moving procession (2 to 4 wide) of guys. For the entire evening, this organized ‘struttin’ line circled the dance floor, positioned between the dancing masses and the eligible ladies sitting along the edge of the gymnasium.
What was the purpose of this Cape Breton dance-matching ritual?
Being in the stag line, provided each male ample opportunity (multiple loops of the dance floor) to scope out the females, both dancing and sitting. He would spot his next potential dance partner. With both the encouragement and jabs from his immediate “stag line” buddies, once he worked up the nerve, (usually after 4-10 passes) the male would simply step out of the line in front of the chosen sitting lady and request a dance.
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