Go Go dancers became known for the first time in the 1960s as part of the disco craze. In spite of the death of disco, the dance form has been rejuvenated and enthusiastic go-go'ers can be found all over the world, gyrating to the beat of the music.
Dancers à Gogo
"Joy and happiness" - that's the literal meaning of à gogo, the French word from which the term "go go" was derived. À gogo in French doesn't mean dance, - it actually means "in abundance", and became synonymous with the dance form due to both the dancers' exuberance and the amount of skin the dancers showed.
Born in Cali, Spread to the World
The first official "go go" girl was Carol Doda, who started dancing at the Condor dance club in San Francisco. She was aiming for a spectacle, dancing topless with enhanced breasts and drawing quite a crowd of patrons. The club owners noticed, and the 'Whisky a Go Go' club in West Hollywood decided to take it to the next level, literally. They suspended cages from the ceiling from the moment they opened the doors in 1965, a practice that became the norm in clubs all over the world.
The demand for go go dancers spread across the Pacific to Japan, but the dance club patrons didn't feel the dancers were appropriate and the dancers ended up at burlesque and strip establishments that became known as "go go bars." The phenomenon of go go girls spread throughout Asia, especially to Vietnam and Thailand, where dancers still entertain tourists and locals today.
Go Go Dancers on TV
In the 1960s, television shows that showed off the latest music and dance numbers on the pop charts featured women and men dancing on platforms, in cages, and more. These go go performers sometimes improvised their dancing and other times did strictly choreography numbers, depending on the show's needs. While the dancers were portrayed as everyday dance enthusiasts, in reality they were often highly trained and competent dancers fluent in jazz, ballet, modern, and other forms of dance. Hullabaloo, Shivaree, and That Show of Shows were all popular shows that became known for the "go go" girls, and actress Goldie Hawn had her TV debut as a wildly twisting go go performer during this time.Aside from dancing on raised platforms or in stylized cages, a go go girl on TV had to, of necessity, be more clothed than her club counterparts. A go go style developed, featuring bright, short, fringe-covered dresses and high-heeled boots that were aptly designated "go go boots." Nancy Sinatra's hit These Boots Are Made for Walkin' featured several women dressed in go go outfits and celebrated the go go phenomenon at its height.
The Decline (But Not Fall) of Go Go
At first it seemed that go go dancing would end up relegated to strip clubs and the occasional burlesque performances, as discotheque after club after dance hall closed its doors. However, the form became popular again in the 1980s largely due to the growing popularity of music videos. Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love featured updated, slick, '80's style go go dancing, and as the music of Madonna, the dance steps to Thiller and other pop MTV numbers filled the clubs, the stages began to feature again both go go girls and go go boys.
A growing trend is for bars and clubs all over to feature Go Go Nights, with dancers of all kinds (including the opportunity for "amateurs" to dance on the stages or in the cages) reliving the days of disco. Go go boots and fringe dresses are now considered stylishly retro, and the dance form has become a celebrated part of the history of popular dance. References to go go dancing can be found throughout contemporary culture, with the most obvious being Apple's iTunes campaign featuring silhouetted dancers moving against solid colored backgrounds. This campaign is as set apart and attention-getting as any dancer in a cage over the sunset strip.