The year is 1958 and if "it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it," then it’s a rock’n’roll hit on American Bandstand. The often-said compliment had little substance and became something of a joke, but the truth was that for the South Philly teens who danced daily on the Nation’s airwaves, danceability was really all you needed. The jerk, the fly, the swim, the mashed potato, the boogaloo and countless other dances became nationwide trends as kids at home danced in their living rooms right along with the teens on American Bandstand. The dances took the breakaway of the lindy hop and extended them, each dancer’s partner hardly important to what he did himself. These dances were about "doin’ your own thing," and were a reflection of youth culture in America’s break from the traditional. Dancing was a chance to stop worrying about what you needed to be and do. No longer was there a time when you needed to box step and one when you needed to cha-cha. The popularity of this new style shows us that Americans, or at least their children, were ready to escape the old social rules and to "breakaway" for good.
While American Bandstand was purely a financial venture for Dick Clark and the radio big-wigs who ran it, it was adored by fans not because it was the spot to hear new music, but because they fell in love with the kids who danced on the show. American Bandstand’s regulars were the stars of the show, some of them receiving 1,500 pieces of mail weekly. They were not stars otherwise, however. Almost exclusively from working-class South Philadelphia families, the dancers would line up for blocks to get the chance to be on the show, hurrying out of school and sometimes even skipping class in order to make it. Dancing was a way for them to escape the daily grind. They were no longer just poor Philly kids; dancing had become the key to stepping outside of their class. Many of the show’s regulars recall that they were despised by others at school, but they never would have thought to quit dancing. The allure of the jerk and the boogaloo; the chance that they provided to be yourself and to do your own thing was too great.
Because American Bandstand was a commercial venture, though, the spirit that Philly’s teens danced with was lost somewhere in production. Their working class roots were erased as the image portrayed by the squeaky-clean host Dick Clark and enforced by the show’s strict dress code made them into what a New York Times review called "an attractive group of youngsters with no motorcycle jackets and hardly a sideburn in the crowd"(Jackson ). As we have seen happened to the lindy hop and the cakewalk, what once had a spirit that overcame class differences eventually lost that spirit as it became a national craze. While the regular bandstanders were adored, nobody knew of their humble upbringings. Americans only knew that they looked nice and danced well. True, Americans were all out dancing without partners, "doing your own thing," but again we see the nature of the craze overcoming the nature of the dance. It’s tough to do your own thing when everyone across the nation does it in sync with you.