You can learn a bit about Boston folks' values by following their dance trends. Disco - with its discombobulating lights, impossible-to-talk-over music, and mechanized atmosphere - and the defiantly awkward bobbing of punk have been just about the only things people could dance to for the last six years.
But lately, swing-dancing - partnered dancing that involves grace and precision - has once again been finding a toehold. And not just with the prewar folks who grew up with it; Yuppies are finding that this dancing goes equally well with Motown groups as with Glenn Miller.
Boston offers a growing array of places to swing dance: The Commons restaurant in Copley Place pushes back the chairs on Sunday afternoons as the White Heat Swing Orchestra plays. The Last Hurrah restaurant at the Parker House (featuring the Winiker Swing Orchestra) and the Cafe Fleuri at the Meridien Hotel (Saturday nights, resuming in September) are both places to dance.
Moseley's on the Charles in Dedham and the Wonderland Ballroom in Revere have large dance floors and offer swing as well as other kinds of dancing.
Interested in a more nautical swing? Try the Jazzboat harbor cruise (Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Winiker Swing Orchestra play Aug. 29). Watch out for swells.
For those who renounced dancing after a painful experience with eighth-grade cotillion and now want to learn, classes are being held all over. Among them: Boston Adult Education, Joy of Movement in Cambridge, Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and the Boston Ballroom at Longwood Towers. Bob Thomas, who's been teaching dance for 10 years, teaches at the Ballet Center in Brookline and Intermetrics in Cambridge. He has dance parties every other Friday at the Church of Our Savior Parish Hall in Brookline. Ron Gursky teaches at Rug Cutters Dance Studio in Central Square.
All this activity indicates that there is a huge untapped market of postcollege professionals who could use a place to dance where they can see and talk to their partner, and hone their dancing skills to the bright, lively sound of a big band. Boston needs something like the now-extinct Roseland Ballroom or the Ray-Mor Pla-Mor.
Even if still small, this movement says something about the state of mind of young Bostonians. Where men and women choose a live band over repetitive recorded music, steady lighting over strobe, and a dance style that involves relating to one's partner with elegance and propriety, that's where you know they're stepping away from the selfishness of the '70s and toward more tender and thoughtful relations. It's a good sign.