Of the 1,060 arrests by police officers in Peabody in 1918, a staggering 1,009 of them were women arrested for public demonstrations of the shimmy dance.
The origins of the shimmy are believed to have come from a vaudeville tap dance routine in the early 1900s called the Shim Sham Shimmy. A 1908 song entitled “The Bullfrog Hop” mentions the shimmy. In 1916 a dancer named Gilda Gray popularized the dance, and claimed to have invented it. Gray couldn’t keep still when she sang, and when she moved her shoulders the straps of her dress would slide down, revealing her chemise (shimmy). In 1918 Mae West laid claim to the title “Shimmy Queen” with her song “Everybody Shimmies Now.” The shimmy inspired a host of songs, including “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” “Teach Me How to Shimmy,” and “You Cannot Make Your Shimmy Shake On Tea.” But the shimmy dance really took off in the 1920s. With public morals loosening in the Twenties, Flappers and jazz babies were free to shimmy with reckless abandon. In the 1930s the shimmy became a couples dance, and in the 1960s bikini/beach movies gave rise to the “Shimmy Shake.” Today the shimmy has become less of a dance and more of a dance movement, but one thing is certain – the women of today need not fear being arrested for doing it.
Click on this video to see how the shimmy is done right!